Local districts deal with transgender bathroom issue differently

One local school district said it has one student who has identified as transgender or gender neutral, but no issues have arisen with bathroom use.

In Troy last week, a student who previously attended district schools as a female has declared he is a male this year. The school approved his use of the boys’ restrooms, leading to some community backlash.

Springfield City School District Superintendent Bob Hill said he believes the district has one transgender student. He said the district has a nondiscrimination policy, but it doesn’t mention transgender students among its protected classes.

“As big and diverse as we are, we run into a wide variety of student and family situations,” he said. “We do our best to accommodate those situations, so this is nothing really new to us.”

Hill said the gender identity/restroom issue does require some planning when it comes to field trips or summer programs.

“We accommodate via the use of easily accessible staff restrooms, and we discuss options when things like field trips and summer programs come up,” he said.

Springfield’s nondiscrimination policy includes race, color, national origin, citizenship status, religion, sex, economic status, age, military status, ancestry and disability as protected classes.

“We essentially have supported students’ rights to free expression via what they wear, including other gender’s clothing, as long as they don’t cause a disruption or safety issue,” Hill said.

The issue is not just a local one, as more than 100 students walked out of a Missouri high school last week because a 17-year-old transgender girl was changing in the girls’ locker room. The transgender girl, Lila Perry, said to St. Louis TV station KTVI that it was like white students being uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a black person decades earlier.

The Urbana City School District said it is not aware of any students telling school staff that they identify as transgender. Superintendent Charles Thiel said in the past, the district has provided a private space for students who “had significant issues with using the locker room.

“This is an issue we will be exploring as we design our new school buildings,” he said.

Urbana’s policy does cover transgender as a protected group, Thiel said.

Clark-Shawnee Local School District Gregg Morris cited Family Education Rights and Privacy Act restrictions in declining to answer whether the district had any students who had identified as transgender.

He said Clark-Shawnee has no standard procedure for dealing with a case like this, saying every situation is different and that there has to be dialogue with student and family.

Morris said the district does have an anti-discrimination policy. It is the standard new NEOLA policy that includes transgender students among the classes protected from discrimination.

State school board member A.J. Wagner said the issue has not come before the board in recent months.

“It’s probably not a (topic) that there would necessarily be a statewide policy for,” Wagner said. “These are the kind of things that we generally leave to local school boards to work out for themselves.”

Hill said districts have to stay up to date in their policies as times change.

“Things are way different than when any of us were growing up or in school,” Hill said. “To our kids it’s almost common, where it’s the adults who generally have a problem with it.”

In Troy, a student who previously attended district schools as a female has declared he is a male this year. The school approved his use of the boys’ restrooms, leading to some community backlash.

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