Mid-South schools respond to transgender bathroom guidance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mid-South schools respond to transgender bathroom guidance

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Public schools in the Mid-South are being told to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

President Barack Obama's administration issued guidance through the Justice and Education departments saying public schools are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity.

The guidance is unclear how schools and school districts are expected to follow that rule, but reactions across the Mid-South have been strong.

"This is very exciting, because we work with a lot of trans kids who have to plan their whole day around where they go to the bathroom," Will Batts of Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center said.

Batts said the guidance is a big step toward ending bullying of transgender students.

Of course, not everyone sees things that way.

"I think you should leave the bathrooms the way they are," Michael Jones said.

Jones said if a transgender person has already transitioned, the guidance doesn't matter, because people wouldn't know the difference. But he said if the children have not transitioned, the bathroom and locker room are not lines the school should cross.

"That's just my thinking. If I was a woman, I wouldn't be comfortable if you hadn't come all the way over." Jones said.

He's among many who worry kids could be targeted by predators.

"There isn't really any documented evidence of trans people attacking people in the bathroom," Batts said. "It's typically heterosexual white males that are doing the abuse and attacking."

Collierville Public Schools Superintendent John Aitken said his district would abide by the law.

"Obviously, we're a publicly funded school, so we'll abide by law," Aitken said. "We'll sit down with council next week. We'll sit down with state leaders, and we'll kind of craft our policies moving forward."

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant issued the following statement:

"The Mississippi Department of Education should disregard the so-called guidance the Obama administration has issued regarding public schools' restroom policies. The directive is non-binding and does not carry the force of law."

While the guidance does not change any federal or state law, it does threaten to cut federal funding to schools that don't comply.

Desoto County Schools sent the following statement:

"Our school district's procedures regarding restroom use have not changed."

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