Schools chief ‘seeking guidance’ on transgender bathroom policy

Published 1:59 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

Butler County School officials are still working to craft a policy regarding a directive issued by President Barack Obama on how public school districts should address issues related to transgender students.

Obama sent a letter, signed by officials from the Education and Justice departments, to school districts across the country last week, informing them that federal law requires schools to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms “consistent with their gender identity.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars discrimination in education based on sex, and the Obama administration has said that includes transgender people.

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While the letter issued by the Obama administration does not have the force of law, it served as a warning that schools that do not abide by the guidance issued could face lawsuits and the loss of federal aid.

Officials say the letter is meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government. Educators have been seeking guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan said teachers and administrators in the district work with students on an individual basis to meet any special needs the student may have.

“I don’t know of any issue that hasn’t been solved at the school level,” Bryan said.

Bryan acknowledged that changing times require changes in school policies.

“I understand that school systems have to develop policies to adapt to generational changes,” she said. “For example, I remember when our high school had a student smoking section. Today no one can smoke on our campuses. I remember when the boys in school had hunting rifles hanging in clear view on gun racks in their pickup trucks. Today you’ll be arrested if you have a gun on a school campus.”

Bryan said she is working with the School Superintendents’ Association and the Alabama Association of School Boards to “craft a policy that will equally protect all students.”

“I don’t have the answers today on what that policy might look like, but I am sure our summer conference in a few weeks will provide us with guidance on this very controversial issue,” she said.