School districts consider transgender bathroom guidance

By Casey S. Elliott -

Logan County school administrators are keeping an eye on transgender bathroom lawsuits before making any changes to district policies.

Area district officials say they are closely watching current litigation against the federal government over its recently-issued guidance for accommodating transgender students in schools.

The “significant guidance” letter was issued to schools nationwide in May by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. The letter states Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 “prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.”

The letter goes on to clarify districts must provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for students, including transgender students. It states a school is permitted to provide sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, housing and athletic teams. When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, “transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy,” the letter states.

Several states are suing the federal government over this interpretation.

Indian Lake Local Schools Superintendent Pat O’Donnell said his district does not have policies addressing the restroom and locker room questions regarding transgender student use. However, the district does have board policies that address equal treatment of all students, regardless of gender. One example is the “Students with Special Requirements” policy, which states, “Students with disabilities or language challenges shall not be excluded from single-gender classes because of their needs. Transgender students shall be permitted to participate in single-gender classes in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”

O’Donnell, Benjamin Logan Local Schools Superintendent David Harmon and Riverside Local Schools Superintendent Scott Mann said they have not had any requests from students or parents for special accommodations based on gender.

All three superintendents said they are waiting for further guidance from the state and federal government before making any policy changes.

“Because Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is challenging the U.S. Department of Justice edict concerning transgender use of restrooms/locker rooms, Indian Lake Local Schools will wait to see what policy is eventually enacted at the federal and state level,” O’Donnell added. “As always, we will follow the laws set forth by higher governing authorities and do our best to make every student as comfortable as possible in the best learning environment we can provide.”

West Liberty-Salem Local Schools and Bellefontaine City Schools officials did not respond to requests for information.

By Casey S. Elliott

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.