Transgender Bathroom Use Becomes Focus During School Board Citizens’ Time

| June 8, 2017 | 1 Comment | Education

Photo by Ashleigh Henegar

Although the amendment to add LGBTQ students and staff to Prince William County Schools nondiscrimination policy [Policy 060] is not up for a vote until June 21, many residents got an early start on speaking out against it at the most recent school board meeting.

All speakers addressing the policy change, June 7, said they opposed it. Most focused on the issue of transgender bathroom use although Chairman Ryan Sawyers said will not be included in the policy.

Sawyers posted on his Facebook page, Wednesday afternoon, saying the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students would remain a site-based management decision.

I would remind everyone that the motion on June 21 to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to our non-discrimination policy will also provide guidance to the Superintendent to not change the current “site-based management” process used with transgender students and their families when it comes to bathrooms and locker rooms.

This is the same motion put up on 9/21/16. Any stories to the contrary about bathrooms and locker rooms are unfounded and used to politicize a non-controversial issue that has passed in many school systems across the Commonwealth.

This policy update is simply about educational and employment discrimination in Prince William County Schools. We must attract and keep the best employees regardless of who they love or how they identify. We also must ensure that our students receive the same protections for the same reasons.

Despite that message, many residents made the use of bathrooms the centerpiece of their argument against the amendment.

Approximately 30 people signed up to speak about the issue during citizen’s time. About half spoke before the meeting, while the rest had to wait until the end of the meeting, which extended past midnight. Not everyone stayed.

One speaker acknowledged Sawyers said  transgender students would continue to be accommodated on a case by case basis, but doubted the change had been formalized. Some parents supported the status quo, saying the situation would be “best handled privately and compassionately led by the individuals that know them.”

Some parents said the arrangement would make students uncomfortable. They argued both actual safety and the perception of safety is paramount in schools. Many said the security of the majority should not be sacrificed to protect the few.

Some residents said allowing transgender students to use girls’ bathrooms would open the door for cis males to use the girls’ bathrooms for nefarious purposes, putting those girls at risk. Others quoted the rise in sexual assaults and sexual activity at schools.

Other speakers said a policy change is a solution to a non-problem as PWCS has not had any recorded incidents of discrimination against LGBTQ people in the last five years. Others accused Sawyers of simply “politicized” the issue to further his political career.

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13th District) was among the speakers that evening. Marshall once added an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that banned same-sex marriage, later overturned by the Supreme Court. Marshall has also proposed several bills in the General Assembly to limit the use of bathrooms by transgender individuals.

Danica Roem was in attendance; the transgender woman, journalist and Democratic candidate for state delegate will run against Marshall in the 13th District should she win the primary on June 13.

Roem told Bristow Beat, Thursday, she respects most everyone’s opinion; however, she admonished residents who uniformly applauded more “outlandish statements.”

In one instance Roem referenced, someone asked ‘what is next? Will the schools need to provide litter boxes for people who think they’re cats?’ In another speech, a person compared being transgender to calling oneself “trans-abled” and causing bodily injury to access handicapped parking spaces.

One man said transgender people are on a road leading towards hell.

Danica said this kind of rhetoric is proof that LGBTQ people, and trans people particularly, need to be protected from discrimination. Transgender people have a 40 percent suicide attempt rate*, she explained, “Because transgender people are often misunderstood and demagogued as immoral liars.” However, when transgender people are supported by their family and community, studies show their suicide attempt rate falls to the national average.

In an email, Roem called out certain statements made as false or misleading. She pointed out that the study by Dr. Paul McHugh, shared by Del. Marshall in literature to his constituents, which lacks validity since John Hopkins disavowed McHugh and his study.

“As the current faculty of Hopkins noted, Dr. McHugh’s report was never peer reviewed and lacks scientific validity as an outlier at odds with the consensus of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and so many other medical organizations that use the WPATH Standards of Care as the primary way to treat transgender patients.”

Roem does not people to read too much into the turnout Wednesday. “The proponents of the policy are planning to be there June 21. There was no organizational effort among us to speak last night.”

School Board member Justin Wilk (Potomac) said he plans to vote in favor of the policy change for the purpose of protecting employees and students, something he thinks is extremely important.

He said the policy change will not affect transgender bathroom and locker room use, and if somehow that changes, he will no longer support the amendment.

The issue of updating Policy 060 was placed on the agenda in September but tabled until June. The citizen task force to address changing the policy was never fully realized.


*Correction: according to studies, transgender people have a 40% suicide attempt rate, not suicide rate.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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  1. Pendragon says:

    What on earth is all the hoopla about? The policy change simply will protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

    Do those who spoke up against the policy change support discrimination?

    No one who is employed by or attends PWCS should be discriminated against.

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