District Administrators Comfortable With Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Directive

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“Starting this year, we are [also] establishing the two, single-stall bathrooms at the corner of the English hall as unisex bathrooms.” Dr. Hardis said. Photo by Alex Cala.

On May 13th, the Obama administration directed public schools to provide transgender students access to restrooms that match their gender identity.

Although this directive is not a new law, it was issued in order to clarify Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. The directive is in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter that interprets Title IX to protect transgender students from sex discrimination. As with all federal mandates to schools, this letter has teeth: failure to follow the directive could result in a loss of federal funding.

“I think President Obama’s directive is spot on when he talks about how it is designed to protect children and teenagers,” wrote in an email Casey Matthews, the Gay-Straight Alliance advisor. “The suicide rate among LBGTQ students is the highest among all other groups of students, and school should absolutely be a place where a student feels safe and protected.”

According to Superintendent Robert Hardis, Beachwood’s district-wide policy has protected transgender individuals since January 2014. Under Board Policy 2260 and 3362, the Board of Education will not discriminate against transgender students, and any harassment of transgender students is considered “unlawful harassment.”

In fact, Hardis said that Beachwood has been ahead of the curve on transgender rights when compared to the federal government.

“In passing this policy, our board of education elevated the rights of transgender students beyond the [law at the time],” he said. “For us, [our policy on transgender civil rights] hasn’t changed.  We have followed a practice that follows the spirit of the Obama administration’s interpretation since before it was issued.”

“I have not personally witnessed harassment of transgendered people at BHS,” Matthews wrote, “but I do know that it does exist based on what students have said. Our GSA’s role in dealing with harassment is two-fold: we want to not only create a safe space for our transgendered students so that they feel welcome and protected, we also seek to advocate for a change in our larger school culture so that harassment really does not have a place anywhere at BHS.”

For us, [our policy on transgender civil rights] hasn’t changed. We have followed a practice that follows the spirit of the Obama administration’s interpretation since before it was issued.”

— Dr. Robert Hardis

GSA meets every Wednesday after school in Matthew’s room.

In addition allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, Hardis also reports that the district will be opening unisex bathrooms at the high school.

“The nurse’s office restroom is already unisex,” Hardis said. “Starting this year, we are [also] establishing the two, single-stall bathrooms at the corner of the English hall as unisex bathrooms.”

Since the Obama administration’s directive, there has been a lot of backlash. Within a week of the directive, eleven states filed lawsuits against the Obama administration, Ohio and nine other states joined later.

Hardis acknowledges that not everyone agrees with Beachwood’s policy, nor is everyone comfortable with sharing restrooms with transgender students.

“While I would respect the person’s feelings, I support the Title IX interpretation that [accommodating others individual’s] discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students,” he said.
Lastly, Hardis hopes that transgender students feel supported by Beachwood City Schools and by the Obama administration’s directive.