By: James Gottry
Does the embrace of tolerance require the surrender of bodily privacy?
More to the point, must our middle school-age girls disrobe in the presence of biological males in order to sufficiently demonstrate a commitment to the new orthodoxy?
It appears that the Stafford County school board in Virginia has answered in the affirmative.
On Tuesday, September 10, the board voted 4-3 to approve new policies that bestow special protections based on “gender identity.” This means opening the doors of girls’ restrooms and locker rooms in our schools to biological males.
Sound farfetched? Ask Superintendent Scott Kizner. In late 2018, he put forth a “Gender Identity and Expression” proposal, which would direct schools to allow biological men to freely access locker rooms, restrooms and other private spaces reserved for girls. It would also open girls’ sports to young men who claim a female “gender identity,” and censor speech by requiring students and teachers to use pronouns that are inconsistent with a person's biological sex.
Incredibly, Superintendent Kizner proposed that, for any students who expressed discomfort sharing intimate spaces with a member of the opposite sex:
“[S]chool administrators and counseling staff may address the discomfort and foster an understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students.”
In plain English, if a girl is worried or uncomfortable with males undressing beside her in the girls’ locker room, school counselors will instruct her to “get over it.”
“Moreover, the [objecting] student should be given the option to use an alternative option that is made available to any student who desires more privacy.”
In other words, a girl who objects can stop using the girls’ locker room or restroom, and go somewhere else. Students are expected to willingly surrender their bodily privacy and dignity in the name of diversity and inclusion. The small number of boys who struggle with their gender identity get first priority on the girls’ private spaces; girls who are unwilling to sacrifice their bodily privacy get second priority.
Superintendent Kizner’s proposal was not implemented last year. But now, by his own admission, the new nondiscrimination policy “gives [the school district] a pathway” to implement a policy similar to his original proposal.
A Short History Lesson
Since we are talking about public schools, perhaps a history lesson is in order. Beginning in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration published several guidance documents that redefined the meaning of “sex” in Title IX, and required schools to treat students “consistent with their gender identity.” Failure to do so could cost a school millions in federal funding. Multiple school districts responded by throwing open their locker room doors and bathrooms to the opposite sex.
What could go wrong?
Not surprisingly, the ensuing chaos led to lawsuits in Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia, and Virginia, among others. In Georgia, a Title IX complaint was filed, alleging that a young girl was molested in the girls’ bathroom by a boy who was allowed inside under a “transgender” policy. The lawsuit in Virginia arose when the American Civil Liberties Union sued a school board that made the sensible choice to maintain separate restrooms for members of each sex while offering individual, private facilities for students who were uncomfortable using a facility that corresponded to their sex. By the time the case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, reason had prevailed. The Trump administration had reversed the ill-advised Obama administration directive in an effort to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students. Accordingly, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the 4th Circuit for reconsideration.
Gloucester is ongoing, but the U.S. Supreme Court may well settle the issue this term, as it is set to hear three cases pertaining to the meaning of “sex” under federal law. By acting when it did, the Stafford County school board has needlessly exposed the district to lawsuits or even the loss of federal funding by creating a hostile or abusive educational environment in noncompliance with Title IX.
Will Reason Prevail?
Our public schools should never advance policies that extend special privileges to a few, while eliminating commonsense protections for all. The action by the Stafford County school board was unnecessary, ill-advised, and unlawful.
School is in session, and it’s past time for our government officials to review their responsibilities to all students.
James Gottry is an attorney and Vice President of Public Policy for the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.