The authors of this post are American men born and raised in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when computers were the size of small buildings and the dominant American media enforced viewing standards to protect the young. We played outside after school and on Saturday, often reenacting the latest episodes of The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger, or Superman. We knew the difference between good and evil, and we generally wanted to be on the side of good. We knew little about girls (unless we had sisters) and were generally uncomfortable around them until high school. We didn’t care much at all for boys’ gym classes, and we preferred just to put our clothes back on after class without showering. We, of course, noticed that our children had the same sense of modesty and innocence that we had, and we now see our children promoting this modesty and innocence among our grandchildren. Classic TV episodes of The Rifleman, The Andy Griffith Show, and Superman continue to teach important lessons. Our grandchildren always change clothes behind locked doors, and our grandsons much prefer peeing into toilets screened by walls and a door rather than into a urinal.
Until recently, society in general, and public schools in particular, helped preserve this innocence and modesty by segregating bathrooms, locker rooms, and overnight accommodations on the basis of sex and punishing intruders who dared defy this normative, universal standard. No more. According to a survey conducted by Parents Defending Education, nearly 6,000 public school districts, responsible for teaching over 3.2 million students, no longer bar boys from entering girls’ bath and locker rooms (and vice versa), with resulting exposure and loss of innocence and modesty.
Public school boards have been adopting policies that require schools to help a child transition at school even if the parent objects and to hide from parents what is going on. Most often these policies have been adopted without fanfare. But, sometimes parents find out, and some have sued.
The United States Courts of Appeals for both the Fourth and the Eighth Circuits recently heard arguments on whether schools can legally ignore the wishes of parents, with the National Legal Foundation serving as co-counsel in the Fourth Circuit case and filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Eight Circuit appeal.
Parents don’t just have to wait in the hopes of favorable decisions in those cases, though. They can take action now to protect their children in public schools with policies of this type in one simple way.
Almost all of these policies follow a format that provides that if any student is “uncomfortable” with someone of the opposite sex being allowed in rest rooms and locker rooms, despite that student’s claimed “gender,” or rooming with a transgender student on an overnight trip, then the school is required to accommodate the uncomfortable student with privacy protections (e.g., a one-user room, privacy partitions, separate changing time, etc). Yes, under these policies the transgender students are the ones who are treated as “normal” and whose psyche is being protected from damage, rather than your children who exhibit as the appropriate sex; but that should not stop parents from acting, for three very good reasons.
First, parents need to stand up for their children. Especially as they reach adolescence, their bodily integrity and privacy become of heightened concern. In the atmosphere fostered by schools with transgender policies of this type, children who actually (or should) feel uncomfortable will be told they are the ones with a “problem” and will be pushed by school personnel and peers to change their views—or at least their words: “I don’t mind. I’m not bigoted.” Parents need to write a letter to the school, telling the school that their children do feel uncomfortable in such situations and require an accommodation.
Second, if enough parents take this important step of sending letters on behalf of their children, then the foolishness of the tail wagging the dog will be more greatly exposed. These policies are based on the assumption that it’s embarrassing for children exhibiting as transgender to be asked to use a private restroom or locker facility. If that’s true, then it is just as embarrassing for the children who are uncomfortable with the situation when they are the ones who have to adjust their behavior. Why shouldn’t these children be the ones to be accommodated? After all, they are not the ones instigating the situation.
Three, the more parents writing letters to the school asking for an accommodation, the less attention will be directed to any one particular child. If dozens of parents want their child to use a single stall facility (like the teachers’ or counselors’ bathrooms), there will, of course, be lines waiting for use. This will, at a minimum, result in teacher/counselor inconvenience, plus student tardiness and class disruption. The foolishness of favoring one or two students over dozens (if not hundreds) of other students will be readily apparent.
Parents of children who know they are having to share sex-segregated spaces with transgender children should write letters to the school principal right away stating that their children are uncomfortable in the situation and require an accommodation. Other parents should also put on file an “advance notice” letter that their children would be uncomfortable in any such situation and that, if a transgender child starts using a bathroom contrary to his or her biological sex, an accommodation should be made for your child immediately, before your child suffers any embarrassment or harm.
The NLF stands ready to assist in reviewing particular school policies and providing draft letters.