Seems to be a little confusion down Chester way. Officials at Green Mountain Union High School have barred a transgender student from using boys’ restrooms. In response, a couple dozen students staged a protest on Monday. WCAX:
Recently a transgender student, who identifies as a boy, was told he could no longer use the boy’s bathrooms at the school. A complaint from a fellow student prompted the school’s decision.
… As the protest unfolded outside, school officials claim they have been ahead of the issue of supporting students’ rights, including the LGBT community. The school has six gender neutral bathrooms. The trans student was told to use one of them.
Yeah, kid, go use the Weirdo Bathroom. That won’t create a stigma.
On its face, this would seem to violate the legal principle that “separate but equal” isn’t the same as “equal.”
School district superintendent Bruce Williams asserts that the district “is not discriminating or breaking any laws.” That’s arguable; WCAX quotes former US Attorney Tris Coffin as saying that Vermont law hasn’t been tested in court on this particular issue. But it’s hard to imagine that a fair-minded court would approve the school’s action. Here’s the relevant portion of the law:
An owner or operator of a place of public accommodation or an agent or employee of such owner or operator shall not, because of race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity of any person, refuse, withhold from, or deny to that person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of the place of public accommodation. 9 V.S. A. § 4502(a).
“… deny to that person any of the… facilities.” That word “any,” by itself, means you can’t prohibit a trans boy from using the boys’ restroom, even if you offer a substitute.
Remember, this action was in response to a complaint from one student. One.
Maybe the real problem isn’t the trans student; it’s the kid whose ignorance could use, well, a little education. The school, in essence, blamed the victim of bathroom panic instead of the source.
Here’s the reality. If you use any public restroom, you have shared that space with transgender persons. You have. It’s a statistical certainty. Get used to it.
You just didn’t know it because people don’t prance around restrooms with their genitals exposed. In this case, the complainer happened to know that his fellow restroom occupant was trans. In every other situation in public life, he will not know. He needs to learn that. Fortunately, he spends his days in a place where he can learn stuff, if only the school would follow through.
Recently, the state Agency of Education issued guidelines on accommodating trans students. The language on restrooms is clear:
The use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students requires schools to consider numerous factors, including, but not limited to: the transgender student’s preference; protecting student privacy; maximizing social integration of the transgender student; minimizing stigmatization of the student; ensuring equal opportunity to participate; the student’s age; and protecting the safety of the students involved.
On the basis of preference, social integration, minimizing stigmatization, and equal opportunity, GMUHS is failing to meet the guidelines. Unfortunately, the Agency included some wiggle room:
Schools may consider including gender neutral restrooms into the design of new construction and/or building renovation.
Which is a craven sanction of “separate but equal.”
Forcing trans students to use gender-neutral bathrooms is better than nothing, but it falls short of full equality. Educators should know better. The Agency of Education should know better.
In the words of Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I hope our educators aren’t falling behind the curve.