F.C. School Board Joins Court Case to Support Transgenders

THE SCHOOL BOARD for Falls Church City Public Schools unanimously voted in favor of the amicus brief to support transgender students. (Photo: News-Press)

The Falls Church City Public Schools’ School Board voted unanimously last month to join in an amicus brief of the Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria school boards in support of transgender students. The amicus brief has been sent to the court involved in a years-long legal fight over the attempt of a transgender student in Glouchester County to use a boys’ restroom.

Denied access, the student, Graham Grimm, sued the Gloucester County School Board, and the case rose to the U.S. Supreme Court though referred back to the District Court after the Trump administration abandoned an Obama-era rule on transgender students. The case will be the subject of a jury trial in the Eastern District of Virginia in July.

A statement to the News-Press this week by John Wesley Brett, director of communications for Falls Church City Schools stated, “Falls Church City Public Schools believes students should be allowed to use the facilities that align with their gender identity. To that end, when students have expressed to a teacher, counselor, or administrator a desire to use a restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, each school works with that individual student (and often their parents) to come to an agreement on the best way to support the student. In our experience, that has included the creation of non-gendered bathrooms at the middle school and high school and use of the student’s preferred pronoun.”

He noted that in the final design of the new George Mason High School will take into consideration the need for gender-neutral and single-use bathroom spaces, including the following:

In addition to the typical, gendered locker rooms, the school will provide six separate any-gendered changing rooms (each with a single toilet, shower and changing area). Increasing the privacy in the gendered locker rooms by providing individual showers with curtains and curtained changing areas in both the girls and boys locker rooms are also being considered.

The first floor of the new building, with the cafeteria, gyms and auditorium, will have a single-user, any-gendered bathroom near the cafeteria and another any-gendered bathroom in the main office.

On two of the three instructional floors, there will be any-gendered bathroom bays, with 10 single stall toilets and a corresponding bay of sinks. Each of these any-gender toilet stalls will have a privatized door flap, so that each space is completely private and it is not possible to see through the doors.

In the hallway outside every teacher workroom, there will be an any-gender adult bathroom.

Finally, providing greater privacy to all students will be achieved by designing gendered bathroom stalls and doors extending from floor to ceiling.

In the amicus brief, which the Falls Church School Board voted unanimously to join last month, the four regional school systems wrote that “allowing transgender students to use restrooms aligning with their gender identity makes the students feel safer and more accepted.”

It states that the four districts “take seriously their mission to inspire and empower students to meet high academic standards, lead healthy, ethical lives, and mature into responsible and conscientious citizens.”

It adds that “policies to promote student health and well-being” includes “in addition to prohibiting bullying and promoting respect for others, the districts have adopted policies that expressly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Our administrators have worked with transgender students to ensure that they feel accepted, protected, and included in our school communities, knowing that supportive school environments are critical for transgender students, who are at a higher risk for anxiety, depression and suicide.”

It states that the four districts “carry out this general non-discrimination policy on a case-by-case basis, exploring with individual students the use of pronouns and names, providing support to families, and ensuring appropriate access to school facilities, including permitting students to use the restrooms corresponding to their gender identity when requested.”

It adds that the policies have been effective, saying: “Our decisions to prohibit gender-identity discrmination and to provide responsible and mutually acceptable arrangements for transgender students have led to uniformly positive results in our schools. Transgender students report greater feelings of acceptance, safety and connection to other students. Families feel more comfortable communicating with teachers and administrators about the unique needs of children. And our school communities have grown stronger as a result.”

By contrast, it states, the four districts “have seen none of the negative consequences predicted by opponents of such policies. Male students, teachers, and parents have not used the policy as a ruse to improperly access female restrooms. Sex offenders have not exploited the policy to prey on children. Transgender students have not suffered greater stigma or trauma. And cisgender students have not suffered academic decline. Those fears have proved entirely unfounded.”

They summarize, “Our practical experience demonstrates that schools can accommodate transgender students’ unique needs while maintaining a safe and supportive environment for all students.”