Beyond Bathrooms: The Transgender Student Experience
- Articles, Blog

Beyond Bathrooms: The Transgender Student Experience

JUDY WOODRUFF: Public schools in this country are caught in
the middle of a political debate over bathrooms. The Obama administration says restricting
a transgender student’s access to restrooms and locker rooms based on biological sex is
discrimination and can be grounds for withholding funding. But that directive has set off some angry
reaction. Kentucky is one state where many leaders don’t agree with the president.
And we look at how one school in Louisville decided to act proactively before the bigger
debate began. Special correspondent Yasmeen Qureshi of Education
Week has the story. It’s part of our weekly education series, Making the Grade. YASMEEN QURESHI: What’s it like to question
your gender? MADDIE DALTON, Student, Atherton High School:
It’s a little bit scary in the very beginning, I suppose, because you know that you’re
going to have to face a lot of discrimination. Like, go through the YouTube comments on any
video about trans people, and you will see, like, just how many people are still, like,
openly hostile to this idea. YASMEEN QURESHI: Seventeen-year-old Maddie
Dalton is transgender. She says she’s always been a girl, but didn’t know it. CASSANDRA KASEY, Parent: Forever, she had
that little widow’s peak. YASMEEN QURESHI: She came out to her parents
when she was 15 years old. CASSANDRA KASEY: It was chaotic at first. And the way I felt it in the very beginning,
when I was still coming to terms with it, was, if I had a friend who came to me and
said that their child had come out to them as transgender, I would have thought, hooray.
You know, your — this young person is becoming who they are. So, why would I not afford my own child that
same — that same blessing? So, even though it was difficult, it was the only right thing
to do. YASMEEN QURESHI: Maddie is a junior at Atherton
High School in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the first openly transgender student at the
school. MADDIE DALTON: I was a little bit hesitant
right at first, but I knew that, being at Atherton, I would be — I would be pretty
safe. YASMEEN QURESHI: A public high school with
about 1,300 students, Atherton is one of the highest-ranked schools in the state. It’s
known for its international studies program and as a place where diversity is embraced. TONY PRINCE, Teacher, Atherton High School:
Developing a safe climate for students is fundamental. And I think that we did — we
were doing that here before we ever started on the transgender issue. YASMEEN QURESHI: Humanities teacher Tony Prince
supervises the school’s LGBT student group. Maddie confided in him about her newly realized
gender identity. TONY PRINCE: I asked her what that means.
You know, what would the school look like to her if it were accepting of her as a transgender
person? And so she wrote a little list of things. MADDIE DALTON: I wanted it to be enforced
that students and teachers should use my name and pronouns and to use the space that I identify
with, so bathrooms and locker rooms. YASMEEN QURESHI: Atherton didn’t have a
protocol for transgender students. The decision was left to principal Dr. Thomas Aberli. THOMAS ABERLI, Principal, Atherton High School:
Our school protects all students, and that the issue of gender identity has simply been
a demonstration of the school’s commitment to respecting all individuals in our school. YASMEEN QURESHI: Aberli agreed to Maddie’s
requests and, after much consideration, so did the school council, making it the first
school in Kentucky to adopt an official policy for transgender students. MAN: This policy is completely disregarding
the privacy of all of their students. YASMEEN QURESHI: A group of parents, students
and community members publicly objected and hired an attorney to appeal the decision. WOMAN: The girls at this school expect to
be able to go into a restroom and feel safe. Because of this policy, we no longer have
that assurance. YASMEEN QURESHI: The group called for transgender
students to use a private or unisex bathroom. Why would that be a problem for you? MADDIE DALTON: First of all, it makes you
a target for bullying and, like, harassment. It puts it in everyone’s minds that you
are different, and you are something to be looked at, not as, like, a person, but as
whatever characteristic is differentiating you, like being trans. YASMEEN QURESHI: After months of debate at
Atherton High School, the policy was upheld, but the opposition didn’t stop there. KENT OSTRANDER, Executive Director, The Family
Foundation: Young ladies, girls, may not want a biological male in their bathroom. That’s
kind of the traditional way we have done things since the founding of this nation. YASMEEN QURESHI: Kent Ostrander is the director
of The Family Foundation of Kentucky, a conservative advocacy organization. Last year, it supported
a statewide bill that would have overturned Atherton’s policy. But it was never passed
into law. KENT OSTRANDER: The legislation simply said
that schools could do all kinds of accommodations for their students, including transgender
students. But the one thing that they could not do is put — is mix the biological sexes
in a bathroom, a locker room at the same time. SUZANNE ECKES, Indiana University: According
to guidelines coming from the U.S. Department of education and the U.S. Department of Justice,
that is discrimination. YASMEEN QURESHI: Education policy professor
Suzanne Eckes is referring to a letter the Obama administration sent to schools last
month. It directed them to allow transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms
based on their gender identity. SUZANNE ECKES: The department has interpreted
gender identity to fall under the Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination based
on sex. We don’t have a lot of court guidance on it. So, if you’re in a state that has
no litigation on this particular topic, the only thing you really have to go on is the
recent “Dear Colleague” letter. YASMEEN QURESHI: However, several Republican
state leaders are advising schools to ignore the guidance, putting them at risk of losing
federal funding. KENT OSTRANDER: Why does there have to be
a new federal government law telling everybody how they’re going to do the bathrooms? That’s
just crazy. Why is the federal government interested in bathrooms? Because states can make that decision on their
own. Parents can make that decision. SUZANNE ECKES: I don’t think this is a Democrat
or Republican or liberal or conservative issue. This is a civil rights issue. This isn’t
a states’ rights issue. This is a civil rights issue. Transgender students, for years,
have been ostracized in public schools. YASMEEN QURESHI: Nearly half of transgender
teens report having suicidal thoughts. And their rates of depression and anxiety are
far higher than the average. MAN: Good morning, Atherton High School. YASMEEN QURESHI: It’s been over two years
since Atherton High School adopted its bathroom policy, and several students at the school
have since come out as transgender. Principal Aberli says that, despite early
objections to the policy, most students have embraced it. NATALIE STASTNY, Student, Atherton High School:
It’s just going to the bathroom. You go do your business, then you wash your hands,
and then you leave. It’s just simple. And when people make a big deal about it, it just
kind of gets blown out of proportion. NIJA MACKEY, Student, Atherton High School:
Coming from, like, a religious background, like, I am Christian, and people don’t necessarily
agree with that type of stuff. But I have been going to this school for two years, and
it’s just routine. Like, everyone gets to the restroom, everyone gets out. It’s nothing,
nothing. It’s not a big deal. DR. THOMAS ABERLI: Something I struggled with
originally was just understanding the difference between what it meant to discriminate vs.
accommodate when it came to this issue. If any student said that they were uncomfortable
with using a restroom, then they can choose an alternate restroom. But we’re not to compel other people to
act differently just because they make someone else feel uncomfortable. That is not what
our country is about. That is not a right to privacy. YASMEEN QURESHI: The school provides access
to private faculty restrooms for any student who requests it. MADDIE DALTON: It all comes down to being
respected as a person and accepted. Now, that’s all relying on the fundamental assumption
that you respect being transgender as a legitimate, like, concept, as a legitimate thing. And
I think that’s where most of the trouble comes in. YASMEEN QURESHI: In Louisville, Kentucky,
this is Yasmeen Qureshi of Education Week reporting for the “PBS NewsHour.”

About James Carlton

Read All Posts By James Carlton

10 thoughts on “Beyond Bathrooms: The Transgender Student Experience

  1. Oh my fucking gosh people! Can you guys please stop and just accept some people got the wrong body by mistake, then they figured out and started changing their body to identify as their own (if that makes sense) there should be bathrooms for all genders, like a girls bathroom, a guys bathroom, a bathroom that is like a staff bathroom but for students that are non binary or gender fluid, ext. PEOPLE THEY ARE BATHROOMS GROW THE FUCK UP? All you do is shit/piss, wash your hands and leave. ( sorry my English is bad )

  2. Its not complex in any manner of the word. You go to the toilet to use it and that is all. Is America so lost that it is trying to segregate people based on difference. Did they not learn from that in the past. Grow up.

  3. A lot of people think and know your going there going to heaven a trans woman gave her life for my child I will never forget her they are angels on earth love you Emily rip

  4. I don't know why this boy wants to be a girl. Perhaps he is afraid of becoming a man and leading that life. His parents should take him to a therapist instead of agreeing to whatever he wants. But, he is obviously confused and should use the private bathroom provided by the teachers. This condition is not accepted as normal by many, many people in this country. These people are confused and need help. I feel sorry for this boy, he has no guidance. I hope he gets someone in his life who gives that to him. People who proclaim to be transgender don't need to be catered to by the majority of the population.

  5. Ahh the good ol days when the US was n the right track toward equality. We came soo close before were subjugated by hate once more.

  6. they would rather have people commit suicide than help them and think of the parents of the transgender male or female that they lost a child all because of policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *