Every person, child, or student should feel comfortable using the locker room or the restroom – regardless of gender identity. That’s why the general public desires to accommodate transgender individuals in their gender identity selection. So yes - access to proper and appropriate locker rooms and rest rooms should be given to transgender individuals. At the same time there should that matching level of care and support afforded to those who do not identify as transgender who may wish a bit more privacy than sharing a locker room or dressing room with a person of the opposite gender would provide. This debate is about the law, fairness, families and public safety.
Title IX, a landmark federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education, requires schools to protect all students from gender discrimination. Originally designed to provide equal opportunities for female students, Title IX addresses discrimination against pregnant and parenting students and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. It also addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes rape or sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence. Title IX protects all students from sexual harassment. No student - transgender or not – should be sexually harassed.
Title IX also works to hold schools accountable for every student’s safety. Regarding bathroom accommodation, Title IX does not require schools to eliminate distinct facilities for boys and girls. Rather, it recognizes that there are privacy and safety concerns justifying those distinctions. It allows schools to “provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex” without committing sex discrimination, largely to protect from sexual harassment. More specifically, Title IX characterizes the sense of discomfort that a student may feel as “a hostile sexual environment.” All types of students can sense sexual hostility. Some may prefer private changing rooms within the locker rooms where anyone – transgender or not – can have a bit more privacy if needed to feel comfortable. This means a school may provide this accommodation by giving transgender students access to a private changing room but not necessarily the open locker room, or provide the private changing room for anyone who feels uncomfortable with an open locker room or restroom policy. Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of gender identity or expression. The bottom line is that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, schools and school districts could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights.
Fairness must be balanced with public safety. Many states have tried to address concerns for public safety in the wave of transgender lifestyle accommodations. An innocent desire to accommodate those questioning their gender identity, however, could be manipulated by a predator taking advantage of that accommodation opportunity. The protection of children ought to be at the heart of this issue. It is painful to admit that there are deviant people in the world who will pretend to be transgender as a means of gaining access to the people they want to exploit, namely children. According to the United States Department of Justice 99 percent of single-victim incidents are committed by males. Consider how a female rape survivor would feel about being told she must share a bathroom with a man? According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, one in four girls will be sexually abused during childhood. Giving a predator masquerading as a transgender individual free access to girls and boys in the bathroom is unwise at best. Because transgender identity is not well defined apart from an individual’s stated feelings, it can be manipulated by those interested in sexual contact with unwitting others.
Families should know that no federal law requires public schools to allow boys into girls’ restrooms or girls into boys’ restrooms. In fact, schools and school districts could be exposing themselves to legal liability for violating students’ privacy rights. Attorney Jeremey Tedesco, Regent University School of Law graduate and Senior Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom states, “Schools have a duty to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students. No child should be forced into an intimate setting – like a bathroom or a locker room – with a child of the opposite sex.” Schools can accommodate the desires of a small number of students without compromising the rights of all other students. Any privacy and safety policy should respect all students and prevent students from being exposed to potential threats to their privacy and safety.
Sometimes in an effort to protect vulnerable minorities, laws may be applied to diminish or forget the need to protect family strength. Transgender bathroom accommodation is an example that should work to protect everyone.
- Know Your IX, http://knowyourix.org/title-ix/title-ix-the-basics/.
- 6 Myths About Allowing Transgender Students to Use Restrooms of the Opposite Sex, Alliance Defending Freedom, http://www.adflegal.org/detailspages/blog-details/allianceedge/2016/02/16/6-myths-about-allowing-transgender-students-to-use-restrooms-of-the-opposite-sex.
- An Analysis of Rape and Sexual Assault, U.S. Dept. of Justice, http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF.
- Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf