RADFORD — Some citizens expressed concerns about which bathrooms transgender students are using in the city’s schools at Monday’s school board meeting.
Ken Alderman — a retired principal at Belle Heth Elementary and former Radford School Board member — told the board he thinks transgender students should be using gender neutral bathrooms.
Alderman said the school system’s practice of letting students use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with isn’t fair to other students.
“I want all children to get a good education. I want them all to be treated fairly,” he told The Roanoke Times after speaking to the board. “But when it comes to invading other students’ privacy, I’ve got a problem with that.”
Alderman also said it was a safety issue — a point also made by Mike London, a parent with two daughters in the school system.
“I am concerned a boy identifying as a transgender will access the restroom/locker room as has already been occurring here and in other schools,” London told the board. “This raises potential safety issues such as taking pictures of children in various stages of undress, sexual advances and possible assault.”
Superintendent Robert Graham and board Chair Lee Slusher both said after the meeting that nothing of that nature has taken place, and neither of them have heard any complaints from students about who is using what bathroom.
London and Alderman also took issue with the school system not making parents aware transgender students are able to use a bathroom they are comfortable using.
Alderman said he’d recently met with many parents who felt the same way he does about the situation.
Graham said it had not addressed the school’s bathroom procedures to parents, because it doesn’t have an official policy in place.
“When I go into the schools there doesn’t seem to be any issues with the children,” Graham said.
Alderman said he would like to see gender neutral bathrooms added to school to accommodate transgender students, which he believes would also make other students less uncomfortable.
Slusher said all of the schools have various bathrooms, including single use ones available to students who prefer those to traditional school bathrooms.
“We have plenty of options for students whether they are transgender or not and anybody uncomfortable with the bathroom situation has a number of options,” she said after the meeting.
Graham also noted that there are currently no state or federal transgender policies to model after, but that is about to change.
The General Assembly recently passed HB 145 and SB 161, which requires the Virginia Department of Education to create model policies for the treatment of transgender students. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill last week.
The bills state that school boards in the Commonwealth adopt policies “that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than such model policies developed by the Department of Education” by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
A federal judge in Norfolk ruled last year that the Gloucester County School Board discriminated against Gavin Grimm, who transitioned from female to male while at Gloucester High School, by passing a policy limiting students to use either bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex or single-stall unisex bathrooms, and by refusing to change Grimm’s transcript to say “male,” according to a recent article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.