D8 Should Be Transparent, Not Coy About Student Rights
Fountain Fort Carson School District 8 has responded to a complaint filed against it with the Colorado Civil Rights Division that Eagleside Elementary is denying the legal rights of 6-year-old Coy Mathis by not allowing the transgender student access to the girls’ bathroom at school. However, the Gazette reported on 03/15/13 that the attorney representing the district states he will not comment to the media about the response. http://www.gazette.com/articles/transgender-152321-discrimination-district.html
In the interest of clarity on this important public education issue for all students, we’re writing to provide information from and respond to points in the original letter sent by the school district to the Mathis family’s attorney in late December 2012. That letter stated in part: “ … regulations don’t absolutely require students to be able to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity provided the other offered facilities are similarly accessible…”
Existing laws do, in fact, lean toward allowing a transgender student be able to access the bathroom of the gender with which they identify unless they choose to utilize a gender neutral bathroom provided by the school.
Regardless of various legal interpretation, we can all agree that much of the time our laws lag far behind fairness.
The Pikes Peak Safe @ School Coalition exists to help transform thinking, policies and actions within school districts to keep all students safe, especially those targeted by bias-based harassment and discrimination around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and transgender status. Transgender students — 9 in 10 of whom already suffer harassment for their nonconformity — do not have to live under magnified difference and discrimination.
In the case of Coy Mathis, the school district appears to have been somewhat accommodating. But the district now states that it has come up against a level of concern because, as they state in their original response letter: “…at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable …”
Discomfort does not excuse discrimination. Why is it unfair to deny access to the girls restroom to Coy if the school makes unisex bathrooms in the faculty areas accessible to her?
Unisex restroom facilities incorporated into the general school population, available to and encouraged for the use of many students, is a strategy that creates equity and inclusion. But singling out a transgender student and requiring them to use a gender neutral restroom in a separate area from the student population prompts feelings of isolation and difference.
Let’s let Coy be Coy.
In the school district’s original response to the organization representing the Mathis family, attorney representing Fountain-Fort Carson School District, W. Kelly Dude, made the following statements:
• “I’m certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at last some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom, and that it would be far more psychologically damaging and disruptive for the issue to arise at an age when students deal with lots of social issues.”;
• “ … regulations don’t absolutely require students to be able to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity provided the other offered facilities are similarly accessible…”;
• “The District and I believe therefore that the District has made reasonable accommodations for Coy’s gender identity …”
Quotes come directly from a December 28, 2012, letter from the firm Anderson, Dude & Lebel, P.C. written to Michael Silverman, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of the Fountain-Fort Carson School District. The letter was accessible via the TLDEF website.