Girls at a Colorado high school are being forced to allow an older boy to use their bathrooms as the result of a policy of transgender accommodation, and the girls say they are being threatened with punishment if their complaints don't stop.
The debate is happening at Florence High School in Florence, Colo., located near Colorado Springs. Matthew McReynolds, staff attorney at the Pacific Justice Institute, told WND parents of several girls are seeking a legal remedy after their daughters were required to share bathrooms with a male who maintains his true gender identity is that of a woman.
"First of all, it's our position that a teenage boy's presence into the bathroom for teenage girls is inherently harassing," said McReynolds, who is representing the families of the girls involved. "It's inherently violative of their privacy rights. It's also intimidating when you have a boy like this, who is not a freshman, going in there with younger freshman girls. They feel violated. They feel intimidated, and that's been expressed to us."
The girls have alleged the boy has made sexually harassing comments in that setting.
"Details continue to emerge on this in terms of what what kind of comments may have been made. We've heard some reports that he's commented on what girls are wearing or their figure while in the bathroom. If you can imagine that scenario from the reference and framework of a teenage girl, I think that's pretty harassing," said McReynolds, who reiterated that a boy simply being in the girls' restroom is ample harassment in itself.
Also galling to the female students and their parents is the backlash the girls have suffered from their own school administrators, who reportedly have vowed to punish the students if their protests persist.
"Some of the students have been warned that they need to stop talking about this. They need to stop talking about their constitutional privacy rights, more or less, or they may face repercussions in areas such as participation on school athletic teams," McReynolds said.
"What we're really going for is a solution that can be workable for everybody involved," he explained. "That's what we don't have right now. Our students are in a scenario where they're being told, 'If you don't want to be in this situation where this guy walks in while you're in the bathroom, then you've got to confine yourself to one staff bathroom that is very inconvenient, that's not even open all the time that they're on campus for athletic activities and things like that. You just have to give up your right to use the other dozen or so bathrooms on campus. You just have to clear out so that this one other student can do whatever he wants.'"
He added, "There are workable solutions short of litigation that are available. We hope the school will go that direction. They haven't given us much indication yet of what they are going to do. There can be solutions that can be acceptable if not perfect to both sides."
McReynolds and the Pacific Justice Institute were actively involved in unsuccessful opposition to California's AB 1266, legislation passed earlier this year to allow self-identifying transgender students to use restrooms designated for the opposite sex. It is scheduled to take effect in January. He said one of many problems with this movement is the lack of a threshold for some to receive transgender recognition.
"That's one of the really troubling aspects to this," he explained. "It depends on who you ask, and it depends on where you go. Here in California, the new law we have really has no standards for how you determine gender identity. That's fairly consistent as you look around the country and seems to be the case in Colorado as well.
"Colorado has some specific regulations that refer to situations where students will be in a state of undress, which is obviously one of the big concerns here. It says that reasonable accommodations have to be made for transgender students. There's a lot of vagueness and haziness in there, but that's what we're plowing through in this scenario."
But McReynolds said the goal of the transgender activists is very clear: "They would insist that every school district in America is subject to these same kinds of situations and scenarios because of the way that they would interpret federal laws like Title IX and just general definitions of gender.
"We're starting to see it all over the place. If you do the math, experts tell us transgender individuals make up about .3 percent of the population. So if you have a high-school campus with a couple thousand kids on it, as is the case in a lot of places, there's a pretty good likelihood that within that school or within that district, and especially as these kinds of behavior become more bold, you're going to be seeing more and more of these."
Transgender activists are largely dismissing this story, claiming the girls are likely either trying to get the male student in trouble because they don't like him or concocting stories of harassment because of opposition to the policy. McReynolds is not buying the argument that this is much ado about nothing.
"If there were nothing to this, I don't think the school district would be currently conducting a law enforcement investigation, which is what they're doing," he said. "Beyond that, you've got to ask yourself, when you have somebody who is acting very peculiarly to say the least, sometimes dressing as a girl and sometimes dressing as a boy, why are we indulging that and making everybody else pretend like that is normal, when clearly it's not?"
The speed with which issues like this have emerged throughout our culture even surprises McReynolds, but he said the warnings against enabling this movement are already coming true.
"Just a few years ago, this wasn't on much of anybody's radar," he said. "Now we find ourselves right in the middle of it. Just a few months ago, I testified before the California legislature on AB 1266 on this same issue, and it was just astounding for me to listen to the things being said on the other side. Again and again, we heard there would be no problems with this legislation, that we were just being 'transphobic' for suggesting that there might be problems resulting from these kinds of policies.
"Now, unfortunately, what we predicted is coming true in a number of different locations."
In an interview with The Transadvocate, a transgender advocate blog, School Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti claimed only one parent has complained about a transgender student using girls' bathrooms:
"Nothing has actually been verified with us," she said. "This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren't getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself. So I think it's just an attempt to elevate the situation to a point where maybe some more attention can be drawn to that in the hope of having a different outcome. But to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school, and she has been using the women's restroom. There has not been a situation.
"All the students of these parents who say they feel uncomfortable just about the fact that the student is allowed to go into the restrooms at the high school, into the stalls, they don't believe that that is appropriate. That's where it stems from. ... The vast majority of our parents are supportive of the student."
Following the interview with Vendetti, PJI said it "urged school officials to immediately identify any factual allegations they considered to be disputed" but received no response as of Thursday.
President Brad Dacus has accused Vendetti of "seeking sympathy from transgender activists."