Local parents, students react to transgender school guidelines

FILE: Restroom sign

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- New transgender guidelines issued by President Obama’s administration are drawing both criticism and praise from school districts across the nation, including some in Northeast Indiana.

Friday, the Obama administration issued new guidelines to allow students to use the bathroom and other facilities based on their gender identity, not their biological sex. Critics said this takes things too far and puts some at risk.

Newschannel 15 contacted all of the schools in the area to see how they felt about the issue. Fort Wayne Community Schools issued this statement:

“At FWCS we are committed to maintaining a safe learning environment for all students. When working with transgender students, there are delicate issues regarding privacy that we strive to maintain, particularly as we are dealing with minors. We don’t want to engage in controversy; rather, we address each individual situation. Our goal is always to do what is right for our students without violating privacy rights.”

Southwest Allen County leaders are reviewing the letter with their attorneys while the other schools have not responded.

Friday afternoon, Governor Pence weighed in releasing this statement:

“I have long believed that education is a state and local function.
Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC.
The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.
I am confident that parents, teachers and administrators will continue to resolve these matters without federal mandates and in a manner that reflects the common sense and compassion of our state.”

We also went out to hear from students and parents about what they think. Several students said they were okay with the idea but some parents voiced concerns.

“I feel like really it doesn’t matter,” said Elena Rhodes, a Junior at East Noble High School. “If that’s the bathroom you feel like you should use it’s not a big deal you should be able to use it.”

“It’s their choice,” Carlos Piedra.”It’s their right. They’re in America. It’s the land of the brave and land of the free.Whatever they want to use they can use. In my opinion it doesn’t affect me because I know what I’m doing and they know what they’re doing. As long as they stay in their lane it’s good. ”

One student said  his transgender classmates are already using bathrooms in line with their gender identity, which didn’t bother him.

“Honestly, I don’t care,” said Amari White, a student at Wayne High School. “I saw a transgender person go into the boys bathroom the other day. It doesn’t bother me. They’re going to use to bathroom just like me. They weren’t at a urinal they were in a stall. It doesn’t phase me.”

Still, for some parents the idea doesn’t sit well. One parent is concerned could open the door for someone who is not transgender to go in the opposite sex restroom for the wrong reasons.

“I don’t want a boy walking in when my 7-year-old daughter is in the bathroom,” said Matt Michellini. “When she gets to high school I’ve got a 15-year-old looking at my daughter.”

Another parent is not opposed to the idea of allowing students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, but admits she has some concerns that it could open the door for transgender students to be harassed.

“I don’t know if it would do any good,” said Lisa Jerrall. “It could be more harmful because kids probably won’t use that bathroom because they’ll be singled out or bullied by other students.”

One idea that both sides agree on is making a gender neutral bathroom.

“If you go to the movie theater you have a women’s restroom, a man’s restroom and a family bathroom,” said Michellini. “Give them a unisex bathroom.”

The Obama administration is not legally requiring schools to follow the guidelines but the letter ties compliance to billions of education dollars.

The directive comes amid a legal battle between North Carolina and the federal government which ordered the state to repeal its law requiring people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificate.

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