As a school district in Missouri moves closer to adopting an anti-trans bathroom policy, the mother of one transgender student says she will sue if members of the board vote in favor of banning trans kids from using bathrooms that correspond to their genders.
The Francis Howell School District in suburban St. Louis is considering a new policy that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. The proposed policy also requires each school in the district to provide “at a minimum, one single-use restroom for student use” and contains a requirement that “only toilets and urinals shall be used to discharge human waste within restrooms,” apparently a nod to the false anti-trans conspiracy theory that schools around the country have installed litter boxes for students who supposedly identify as cats to use.
One parent told the board she is “embarrassed” for her elected officials who “believe that this is a true issue.”
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, the policy was proposed in October by Jane Puszkar, a member of the school board’s conservative majority. The majority of the speakers at the board’s October meeting opposed the policy, and a petition opposing it has been signed by close to 700 people.
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Ahead of the board’s November 16 meeting, school board president Adam Bertrand announced that the policy would not be on this month’s agenda. But on Thursday night, parents, teachers, and LGBTQ+ allies rallied outside the meeting to protest the policy. They held trans Pride flags and signs reading “FHSD Trans Students Matter” and “Stop Dehumanizing Trans Kids.”
Becky Hormuth, a teacher in the Francis Howell School District whose transgender son also attends a district school, told local CBS affiliate KMOV that her family intends to fight the district if the policy is approved.
“If this policy passes, my family has no other course but to take legal action,” Hormuth said. “It is not something that’s beneficial. It is discriminatory, and it is something that is illegal.”
To Hormuth’s point, in August, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its 2017 decision in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, in which it ruled in part that a Wisconsin school district had not provided a transgender student a sufficient alternative under Title IX by requiring him to use a gender-neutral bathroom that was inconveniently located and subjected him to “stigmatization.”
The Francis Howell School District’s proposed policy only requires schools to provide one single-use gender-neutral bathroom to which all students would have access. That could potentially create a number of problematic scenarios. As journalist Erin Reed noted last month, forcing trans students to use single-occupancy restrooms can lead to them being outed. Trans student may be forced to use a bathroom that does not correspond to their gender identity if a school’s only single-occupancy bathroom is occupied or if it is located inconveniently far from their classroom.
The district’s policy also describes access to single-use restrooms as a “privilege” and allows schools to “discipline” any student who “abuses the use of single-use restroom(s) to consistently arrive late to class.” As Reed noted, with schools only required to provide one single-occupancy restroom for student use, this could result in trans students being forced to use restrooms that do not align with their gender identity to avoid punishment.
Alexander Collins, a transgender student in the district, told KMOV that trans students already face harassment at school. “We get called slurs in the hallway all the time,” he said. “I was told once that it would be better for me to die.”
Lacie Jett with LGBTQ+ advocacy group PROMO said that trans kids in the district avoid eating and drinking during the school day so that they will not have to use the restroom.
“That is very disheartening and actually a very disgusting way to treat your students,” Hormuth said of the bathroom policy.
On Facebook, Bertrand said that the board would revisit the policy later but did not specify when.
“While we are grateful the policy has been tabled, the real question is why was it even brought up in the first place?” Robert Fischer, a spokesman for PROMO, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The first place the school board should turn to for education is its students and, in particular, their Gay Straight Alliance chapters who are hurting.”