Staff Editorial: Transgender Policy


Abi A

The increasing rise of abuse towards transgender people is not a new issue, nor one exclusive to Gardner. That fact, however, does not excuse the horrible mistreatment of the transgender students of the USD 231 school district committed by the school board.

As everyone living in town is most likely aware, for the past several months the school board has been on a slanderous campaign against transgender students. Desperately attempting to strip them of any rights possible. Even more disgusting was the fact they only stopped to reconsider once the possibility of a lawsuit was on the table, demonstrating that when it came down to money or students, cash easily took the priority. 

Unfortunately, even the legal world couldn’t stop the ignorant members of the school board from indulging in their bigotry on November 7 when they officially passed a new guideline. The guideline puts both transgender and cisgender students in uncomfortable situations that were previous non-issues. All students are required to use the bathroom for the sex assigned at birth, or make the trek to one of the few gender-neutral bathrooms- actively wasting time that could be spent in class. This change applies to all students, regardless of circumstance. 

With this policy now in place, a student who was assigned female at birth but fully transitioned into a man will be forced to use the women’s restroom. This seems to be a pretty unanimously uncomfortable idea for everyone involved in the exchange. Furthermore, the district is refusing to build more gender-neutral bathrooms to help solve the problem.

Ironically, the wide majority of the student population does seem to agree there’s an issue in the bathrooms and it’s just not transgender people. Vapers have become infamous throughout the school for infesting the bathrooms, oftentimes invading them in swarms and hotboxing the stalls until the bathroom is shut down. This occurs several times daily and while there have been some attempts to solve it, no solution has been found and no major plans are in the works. 

Contrast this to the “safety problems” the school claims of transgender students bring to the bathrooms, despite the fact that not a single incident of assault has been committed in the bathrooms on behalf of a transgender student. It’s woefully ironic that many bathrooms are well known by students to be unsafe and problematic due to vapers. Yet, no student ever decides which bathrooms to use based on whether a transgender student is occupying one. The school board is beyond out of touch, they are blatantly ignorant and are ignoring the real tangible issues in this school.

As if the fear-mongering and scape-goating of bathroom situations for transgender students wasn’t enough, the school board was initially adamant about trying to ban preferred pronouns and preferred names. After massive backlash, and legal advice telling them to perhaps not endanger students’ rights, the board decided to make some “compromises.” 

As it stands now, the current situation for a transgender student wanting to change their pronouns or go by a different name requires them to out themselves to their parents. The fact that this is required makes being outed at school a very scary and very dangerous problem. 

If a student approaches a teacher asking to be referred to by different pronouns, they are sent to a counselor to talk about the situation, at which point the counselor will contact the parents to obtain consent unless the student backs out. For the many transgender students with unsupportive families, they are faced with the bleak reality of forcing themselves to endure misgendering at school, or out themselves at risk of disownment or domestic violence. Add this to the fact that transgender teens already have some of the highest suicide statistics for people of their age group, and it becomes adamantly clear what the boards agenda is.

This campaign is not about safety. This campaign has never been about safety. This campaign will never be about safety. This campaign is about harming transgender students, about stripping them of their rights, about silencing their voices, about suppressing their dignity, about trying to force them out of society.

These changes benefit nobody and harm an already marginalized and frequently targeted group with a staggeringly high suicide rate. It is asinine that the school board has the nerve to make the claim of safety. These students already have it hard enough as it is, and for many this could be the last straw. 

Lawsuits are already in talks, but as long as the people on the school board remain the decision-makers, it is clear that any threats made, be they legal or moral, do not matter. They have shown that, even in situations that could lead to legal issues for the district as a whole, what matters most is making sure that transgender students do not get the respect that everyone else does. 

At the end of the day, these students are just like everyone else. They are human. It’s about time we treat them like it.