Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
A new, official interpretation of state law released by Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester requires schools to permit “transgender” boys to use girls’ locker rooms, bathrooms and changing facilities if the boys “assert” they’re really girls.
“Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility,” the official document admits, but then concludes, “this discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, however, says there’s something far more significant than “discomfort” at stake.
“The School Commissioner’s first duty is to protect all students, from kindergarten to grade 12, not endanger them,” Mineau said in a statement. “The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls’ bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students’ safety.”
Furthermore, the policy document explains, neither doctor’s note nor hormone therapy nor even parental permission is needed for a student to switch sex: If a boy says he’s a girl, as far as the schools should be concerned, he’s a girl.
“The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student,” the statement reads. “A school should accept a student’s assertion of his or her gender identity when there is … ‘evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.’”
The document further warns that referring to transgendered students by their birth name or sex, if it doesn’t match their current, preferred name or sex, “should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline.”
The document creates policy related to a law that went into effect in July of last year called “An Act Relative to Gender Identity,” which in turn amended G.L. c. 76, §5 “to establish that no person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of gender identity.”
According to the 11-page policy paper, that means that boys who identify as girls should not only be addressed by the feminine pronoun and be listed as girls on official transcripts, but they should also be allowed access to girls’ facilities and be allowed to play on girls’ athletic and club teams. Likewise for girls who insist they’re boys.
Andrew Beckwith, attorney for Massachusetts Family Institute, however, warns that the document’s definition of transgender “is extremely broad.”
“If a male student tells his teacher he feels like a girl on the inside, the school has to treat him in every way as if he actually is a girl,” Beckwith explained, citing the policy paper. “School personnel may be forbidden from informing the parents of their child’s gender decisions, and students can even decide to be one gender at home and another at school.”
The Massachusetts Family Institute notes during debate the law giving rise to this new policy had been dubbed the “Stealth Bathroom Bill,” even though opening public bathrooms to self-identified transgender people was specifically removed from the law out of legislators’ concerns for the safety, privacy and modesty of all its citizens.
In schools, however, the bathroom provisions will now effectively be put back in.
“Each situation needs to be reviewed and addressed based on the particular circumstances of the student and the school facilities,” the education policy states. “[Yet] in all cases, the principal should be clear with the student (and parent) that the student may access the restroom, locker room and changing facility that corresponds to the student’s gender identity.”
The policy also gives the following example: “In one middle school, a male-to-female transgender sixth-grader socially transitioned after spring break. For the rest of the school year, she used the nurse’s restroom and the other unisex restrooms at the school. Beginning in seventh grade, she used the girls’ restroom.”
Democratic State Rep. Colleen Garry has introduced amending legislation to the current law she says would prevent precisely these scenarios by ensuring that people use restrooms and locker room facilities consistent with their anatomical sex.
“Like many of my colleagues, I am very concerned about Commissioner Chester’s directive to open public school bathrooms to all genders,” said Garry. “This was not the intent of the Legislature, and we need to pass legislation that clearly defines the use of such facilities.”
WND contacted Commissioner Chester’s office for comment, but received no reply. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education can be contacted through its website.
WND has also reported previous attempts by state lawmakers in other states who have attempted to open up shower and bathroom facilities to cross-dressers and “transgendered” individuals.
In Maryland, for example, Montgomery County used the courts to quash a petition of 27,000 residents concerned about county legislation that granted men access to womens’ restrooms, and vice versa, in the name of “gender identity” and “anti-discrimination.”