December 15, 2014 at 8:10 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. school board adopts restroom, locker room policy

Gavin Grimm, gay news, Washington Blade

Gavin Grimm (Photo courtesy of Gavin Grimm)

A Virginia school board last week approved a controversial policy that requires students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their “biological genders.”

The Gloucester County School Board by a 6-1 vote margin approved the new regulation during its Dec. 9 meeting.

A copy of the new policy the Washington Blade obtained acknowledges that “some students question their gender identities.” It further states the school board “encourages such students to seek support and advice from parents, professionals and other trusted adults.”

The new policy also says the school district seeks “to provide a safe learning environment for all students and to protect the privacy of all students.”

“Therefore it shall be the practice of GCPS (Gloucester County Public Schools) to provide male and female restroom and locker room facilities in its schools,” it reads. “The use of said facilities shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with sincere gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative private facility.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia noted in a press release the school board approved the new policy after administrators at Gloucester County High School allowed Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, to use boys’ restrooms.

The organization said this decision “has not resulted in any disruption in the school.” The ACLU of Virginia added Grimm’s classmates “appear supportive” of his “right to use restrooms that are consistent with his gender identity.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the school board opted to discriminate against transgender students by prohibiting them from using appropriate bathrooms and locker rooms,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, noting the policy may violate Title IX that prohibits schools that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex. “Our school boards should be focused on making Virginia schools as inclusive and welcoming as possible. This new policy will do the opposite. Forcing transgender students to use segregated facilities not only violates federal law, but is also intensely stigmatizing.”

“The students, teachers and administrators of my school understand that I am a boy, and it’s important for me to be able to use the boys’ bathroom,” added Grimm. “I don’t know why the school board can’t understand that too.”

Randy Burak, chair of the Gloucester County School Board, in an e-mail to the Blade on Friday did not specifically respond to the ACLU of Virginia’s claim the policy violates Title IX.

“I do not want to address any comments made by the ACLU since they have made them and they are in the media,” he said. “I do not want to stipulate what the future will bring. They issue was raised to our board and we addressed it on Tuesday evening (12/9) by providing a ‘practice’ for addressing these this issue.”

Kim Hensley, who is the only member of the Gloucester County School Board to vote against the policy, told the Blade on Friday she feels the new regulation “violates the civil rights of transgender students by denying them equal access to school facilities.”

Hensley added the policy could put the school district’s federal funding at risk.

“Gloucester County Public Schools can protect the privacy rights of all students and still comply with Title IX by retrofitting bathrooms to make sure that there are only stalls in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms,” she told the Blade. “This would be a fast and cost effective way to address community concerns.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • Meanwhile, in ongoing DC schools homophobia news…
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    Chancellor Henderson has curtly doubled down on her firing of openly gay principal, Peter Cahall at Wilson High School. So far, there is no word from Henderson (nor Mayor-elect Bowser) regarding the implied homophobic message Cahall's inexplicable firing sends throughout DC's school system.
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    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2014/12/15/kaya-henderson-wilson-high-principals-firing-final/
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    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/mike-debonis/wp/2014/12/15/muriel-bowser-names-more-top-aides/
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    We ought to get answers to tougher questions from Bowser and Henderson both…
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    What's with the timing of Cahall's firing? Why send a high-profile, homophobic message throughout the school system now? Why right after the election? Why in the middle of a school year?
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    Life just got much tougher for LGBTQ *STUDENTS* attending DCPS schools — including kids merely perceived as being LGBTQ. Won't school bullies be encouraged? Did Henderson and Bowser ever consider that?
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    Will DCPS school officials look the other way in the face of anti-LGBT bullying — fearful Bowser and Henderson will abruptly fire them, too?
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    What about other DCPS LGBT principals? DCPS LGBT teachers?
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    What, if anything, are Bowser and Henderson planning to do about avoiding a new culture of homophobia and transphobia in DC schools now? Do they even care?
    ˙

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