Transgender bathroom issue discussed at NP

Friday, August 17, 2018

ROACHDALE -- In addition to addressing issues regarding finances and school safety, the North Putnam Board of School Trustees also heard a public comment on a developing issue pertaining to transgender students and school bathrooms Thursday evening.

A concerned parent spoke before the school board requesting additional information on where school officials stood with regard to transgender students and the use of bathrooms aligning with their self-identified gender.

The parent expressed that her inquiry came out of feedback she had heard from students and residents, cautioning that such statements were "hearsay" and that she wanted to relay the concern to the "appropriate people."

NPCSC superintendent Nicole Singer recommended that parents should direct these and other concerns to coaches and teachers first, and that the issue could be resolved through the chain of command.

More broadly, the question arose because of an unfolding discussion stemming from events that took place a week ago at North Putnam High School. According to Singer in a later statement to the Banner Graphic, a transgender student, who identified as a male, recently contacted school administrators and requested a name change for school records.

Additionally, a transgender student also recently posted a photo of himself using the men's bathroom at the high school. It is unclear at this time if the student was the same one who requested that his name be changed.

A group of students and parents attended the meeting, which was presumably moved from the Administration Office to the high school auditorium to accommodate a larger gathering coming to hear a response from the school board.

However, the issue did not dominate other discussions the school board had pertaining to the hiring of a school resource officer and the school corporation's budget and insurance.

In remarks provided to the Banner Graphic Friday morning, Singer said that school officials could not take a position as to the social controversy regarding transgender bathroom preference. She instead expressed that the school corporation was bound by law and the corporation's policies, adding that it was a priority to ensure students' safety and to accommodate requests and concerns.

"The law is clear in this situation that students can use which bathroom facility they wish," Singer said.

Singer related that one parent had contacted her with regard to the issue, but that she had not heard additional complaints from other students or parents.

She again urged parents and students to contact school administrators and share their input, emphasizing that open dialogue will be needed as the issue evolves.

"We do gauge the seriousness of our students' requests, and we'll do what we can to help students," Singer concluded. "We want our students to feel safe and not be bullied or discriminated against."