Federal transgender bathroom policy changes won’t affect Glen Rock schools


Photo Credit: Abby Stern

Although Glen Rock has gender neutral bathrooms such as the one picture, students are also able to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.

by Abby Stern, Staff Writer

With the new Presidential administration, the country has been shot into a controversial era of contradictory opinions on social change, one of the most prevalent being the rights of the transgender community.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, guidelines regarding protections of the transgender community to use the bathroom of their gender identification were federally revoked, according to CNN.  This protection was part of the Obama Administration, but, with the Trump Administration, these safeguards have been removed. The decision then falls to individual states.

According to two federal departments, “extensive legal analysis was not provided” for the former administration to enforce these guidelines.

According to Adam Clark of NJ.com, individual school districts can enforce their own policies regarding gender identity and bathroom usage.  This means that Glen Rock can decide policies on its own regarding this topic.  The New Jersey School Boards Association gave districts a sample policy providing access to bathrooms consistent with gender identity, as well.

The protocol regarding bathroom usage established by President Obama is being removed, but   Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 remains, giving legal protection against sex discrimination in public schools.

Mr. Pohlman, the government teacher at Glen Rock, clarifies what this means.

“All President Trump did was roll back the choice to the states. He does not believe that this is something that the federal government should be involved in. The states, as such, are able to do whatever it is that they choose on this issue,” Pohlman said.  “The president’s action does not change any law. Transgendered students are still protected by Title IX but the rollback creates confusion as to what federal law requires.”

President Trump’s decision to remove these guidelines comes even after Trump and the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, made their promise to protect the transgender community.

Conflict is reigning in this time, causing discrepancy within the government and outside.  Many civil rights groups are enraged over this change.  

“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement.

On the other hand, many government officials have criticized the Obama Administration in the past for this protocol.  Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, even sued over the matter. Although the challenges were withdrawn, the discrepancy sparked even more discussion on the topic.

“Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change. The Obama administration’s directive on bathrooms unlawfully invaded areas that are left to state discretion under the Tenth Amendment. School policy should center on the safety, privacy and dignity of its students, not the whims of federal bureaucrats,” Paxton said.

Privacy has been an integral part of the bathroom and locker room debate.  Many parents are wary of having their children change for gym in front of another student who is anatomically the opposite gender.

In yet more contradictions within the Trump Administration, DeVos has been on record saying she was opposed to President Trump’s removal of Obama’s protocol. After some protest, though, she publically supported the dismantling of Obama’s safeguards.  DeVos recognizes that she and Trump made a promise of protection to the transgender community and that these actions are not keeping these promises.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the actions of the Administration, but says that it does not mean they are abandoning certain students.  “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment,” Sessions said in a public statement on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Amongst all of these contradictions, where does Glen Rock High School stand?  To protect transgender students, the Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) in New Jersey prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, and, more importantly regarding this issue, requires that a person must be allowed to use the bathroom consistent with gender identity.  

Nationally, there is also not a single reported case of a transgender student abusing the right to use bathroom and locker room facilities, so by state law of New Jersey, transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that coincide with their gender identity.

Principal Arlotta is proud that Glen Rock High School had legislation regarding transgender bathrooms for years.  He reassures that the policy of the school will not change based on the new presidency.

“I feel good in a way that a lot of the decisions we made were before the legislation. We did look at creating gender neutral bathrooms before a lot of other places did it.  We educated our staff and parents. We made the changes before the legislation went out, so there will be no point of changing these rules,” Arlotta said.  

Arlotta also outlined the existing protocol in the school.

“A student has the ability to use the bathroom of the gender of their preference regardless of how they were born biologically. This goes similarly to locker rooms,” he said.

Arlotta wants to make sure students feel comfortable in their own school and to make it a safe environment for all.

“We want to really make sure all our students are comfortable here. I’ll always be in favor of making people comfortable in a place they’re spending a lot of time in,” he said.

In terms of giving a safe learning environment to students, Mr. Crispino, the anti-bullying specialist, also want to make sure students are safe and comfortable in school.  He tries to make sure that students in Glen Rock continue to treat all their peers with equal respect.

“The best way to stop any type of discrimination is through education and providing support for our students to not accept these negative behaviors.  As a school, we take pride in the many clubs or social groups that are offered here which are designed to educate the students regarding the issues people face when it comes to discrimination.  As a school, we will continue to educate but also provide an environment which is safe for all students,” he said.