By Paul Gable
Over the past 48 hours, Horry County has literally exploded in comments about transgender bathroom usage in Horry County Schools.
The Horry County School Board has been the focus of this deluge of communications, mostly by parents opposing transgender students being allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.
Last week, a three judge panel at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision, in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, that a Virginia school discriminated “on the basis of sex” in violation of Title IX when it barred “G.G.,” a “transgender boy” (a girl who identifies as a boy) from using the boys’ restroom.
Previously, the school had allowed the student to use either the girls’ bathroom or one of the school’s single stall bathroom units created by the school to accommodate transgender students, but open to usage by all students.
Forcing the student to use a common area bathroom with a gender she didn’t identify with or to use a special single stall bathroom was determined discriminatory by the panel of judges.
The Horry County School Board faces the same type of situation with a transgender boy who was suspended from school for using the boys’ bathroom.
After the suspension, Horry County Schools was notified in a letter from the Transgender Law Center that it faced a lawsuit if students were denied usage of the bathroom of the gender with which they identify and live as on a daily basis.
Earlier this week, Horry County Schools released a statement, “The District maintains the privacy of all of its students. The District seeks to accommodate the individual needs of its transgender students in compliance with the law, including Title IX. We will continue our efforts to ensure a welcoming school environment for all students.”
That statement opened a deluge of communications from parents concerned with the idea of students of one gender using the bathroom of the opposite gender regardless of the gender with which the individual identifies himself or herself.
Fears of potential rape or molestation, “stall peeping”, unwanted picture taking and violation of the rights of students who identify with the gender with which they were born, provide a sample of the concerns expressed in varying tones of outrage.
Some parents also threatened a potential lawsuit against Horry County Schools if the district adheres to the ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
That threat makes absolutely no sense since the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals includes South Carolina. Do they think they would get a different ruling while a case which has already been ruled on by a Fourth Circuit panel of judges was still making its way through the legal process? Federal district judges in the Fourth Circuit are compelled to comply with this decision as it currently stands.
In addition, by attempting to fight a decision that has already been made, Horry County Schools stands to lose its federal money which includes things like free lunch and Title I money as well as spend hundreds of thousands of public dollars on attorney fees. Why would we want to take away from our students with a futile gesture?
The Gloucester County case is not over. The school district has now requested a hearing before the full Fourth Circuit Court.
Horry County School Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said Horry County Schools would file an amicus curiae brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the Gloucester County (VA) School Board position.
Meanwhile, Horry County Schools has no legal option but to adhere to the ruling of the three judge panel, regardless of what parents think of the idea. We are a society of laws, even ones we don’t like or agree with.
This entire issue and the countywide outrage expressed to school board members prompted Shanda Allen, a Republican candidate for Horry County School Board District 11, to offer a possible solution.
Allen calls it “Gender Secure Facilities”. Under Allen’s proposal, the current ‘common area’ bathrooms and locker rooms in the district would be replaced by “Gender Secure Facilities.”
Allen describes her Gender Secure Facilities as individual, private bathrooms, shower stalls and dressing rooms, all with locks, that would be used by all students. In addition, Allen calls for monitoring by security cameras in the access areas leading to the secure facilities and in common areas such as team meeting areas to ensure privacy and security of all students using the facilities.
Monitoring of access areas and common areas is legal. The interior of the individual facilities cannot be monitored, but monitoring access to them should provide the necessary safety and security desired by parents.
By replacing current ‘common area’ facilities with Gender Secure Facilities used by all students, the issue of discrimination against any particular student should not come up.
Allen said she knows Gender Secure Facilities could be included in the plans of future schools at little cost, but replacement of current common area facilities with Gender Secure Facilities would cost money.
“I believe we would be better served by using public dollars to fix the problem rather than attempting to fight or defend the judges’ ruling in court,” Allen said. “Remember, both sides of this issue in Horry County have threatened the school district with legal action. Why waste money in court when we can use it to fix the problem?”
“I am sorrowed that we live in a society that has brought us to such a decision, but our only choice is to get ahead of the problem and not let it split apart our community,” Allen continued. “We need to stop the problem and stop it now.”
Allen said she understands the potential safety issues expressed by one side, but also the turmoil those on the other side feel.
“There is no price that can be put on the safety of our children,” Allen said. “But, a child identifying themselves as transgender is also a human being who deserves our consideration. I believe Gender Secure Facilities are our best answer.”
A special school board meeting has been called at the district offices for 11 a.m. Monday May 2 so the school board can formally address the issue.