Sometimes progress can feel like one step forward and two steps back. For instance, a high school in Georgia recently opted to allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identification. Progress, right? A small step in the right direction? Don't get too excited because the school district reversed its transgender bathroom policy after parents reportedly voiced concerns surrounding it.
The Pickens County School Board in Jasper, Georgia released a statement on Oct. 16 regarding its recent decision to reverse a policy that would allow students to use the bathroom that coincides with their identified gender, citing "serious safety concerns."
"There have been many serious safety concerns raised in the past few days. School board members, staff, and students have been threatened due to the administration’s implementation of Adams vs. St. John’s County School District," the school district said in the media release, referring to the 2018 Florida federal discrimination lawsuit that established that a transgender student would be allowed to use the bathroom that identified with their gender.
Pickens County High School had implemented their own policy after the ruling, however it seems some parents were raising alarm bells about potential safety issues at an Oct. 14 school board meeting, according to CNN. "Most people won’t say anything because they fear retaliation," one dad said at the meeting, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Accommodations have already been made for transgender students. This is nothing but a political stunt to gain attention!" And one mom reportedly said, "Once you give into this, you’ll open the floodgates."
On Oct. 16, Superintendent Carlton Wilson told WSBTV in an interview that those initial concerns became outright threats. "The way some called names has been embarrassing and disappointing to me, and that’s hard to get over," Wilson told the news outlet. "One of them said, ‘You know, situations like this brings out crazy people from both sides and sometimes people die.'"
The district's statement also cited such threats. "There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property," the statement continued. "The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the District has concerns that it may not be able to meet these recently increased demands."
The media release noted that schools will go back to using a single-stall, gender neutral bathroom. "Therefore, the District shall return to bathroom procedures in place at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year until it can consult with law enforcement and other safety professionals so that these concerns may be addressed," the statement concluded.
Romper's request for comment from Pickens County School Board for further comment on its decision to reverse the policy was not immediately returned.
A former student at Pickens County High School who is transgender spoke to WSBTV about what it was actually like to try to attend school while relying solely on a single stall bathroom, saying they were often late to class and weren't comfortable using the teacher's bathroom on campus. "Me, personally, I didn't feel comfortable using the teacher's bathroom because they were nice teachers, but they didn't understand," they told WSBTV.
Federal law Title IX protects transgender people from discrimination based on their identified gender, and, as CNN reported, in 2019 a federal judge ruled in favor of a Virginia student who took his school to court over the matter of transgender bathroom policies. With so much progress made in Georgia and beyond in recent years, news like this is, to put it lightly, disheartening to hear.