JASPER, GA – Citizens of Pickens County packed out the high school’s performing arts center to voice their opposition and support of the new transgender restroom procedure, leading Superintendent Wilson to temporarily suspend the administrative action.
The meeting scheduled to last only two hours went well into the three-hour mark as close to 50 parents, students, and citizens passionately discussed their opinions on the transgender restroom procedure enacted last week.
You can watch the entire transgender restroom procedure public forum below.
Approximately 800 people came out to hear Wilson’s response to their concerns during the public discussion. Wilson asked everyone in attendance to remember that each student is a child with the right to be listened to, nurtured and loved.
Many cited faith, safety, and bullying as their main concerns about the change in policy.
“I would never in my life use a restroom in which a female is in,” said Nathan Barfield, a veteran, and father of two, “No person’s rights are more important than anyone else. My son has a huge heart and he doesn’t want to say anything for fear that he is going to be labeled a bully.”
The audience burst into an uproar of applause after Barfield’s comments.
Supporter Kayla Hollyfield spoke out, “You should be able to use any restroom that you want to use. This is not about left or right. It’s about equal rights. It’s not an agenda.”
Throughout the meeting, speakers were interrupted by their opposition and later on for calls for Wilson to answer the growing list of concerns that the school’s attorney added to with every speaker.
The administration kept a running list of concerns with every speaker during the policy hearing. One even suggested documenting all transgender students, so everyone would know who could go into which restroom.
Wilson stated that with the current procedure teachers could ask students going to the bathroom if they identified as a boy or girl before entering.
Kino Ciel Stanfield quietly approached the podium and revealed that he a 2017 Pickens graduate is a transgendered individual. He began the transition process soon after graduating from Pickens County High.
“To transition isn’t something taken lightly,” he said. “I spoke to doctors and specialists and we came to the conclusion that this was best for me.”
He expressed discomfort with using the boy’s restroom while in high school, not only for himself but for his younger siblings as well. Stanfield wanted everyone to be comfortable, which came at the expense of his gender identity.
Stanfield used the single stall nurse’s restroom and teacher’s lounge bathroom while at school because it was easier. This option is offered to every transgender student at Pickens High School.
Out of the nearly 50 speakers, only a handful had recently graduated from PCS. Some parents expressed concern that their children didn’t want to speak out on the issue for fear of retaliation from both sides.
Superintendent Dr. Wilson addressed this, “I don’t understand the feeling either from students or adults that anything they say or have an opinion about would be retaliated against. I don’t want anyone here tonight not to speak because they feel intimidated.”
The crowd broke out in laughter at Wilson’s comments because no one believed this issue wouldn’t result in some form of retaliation from one group or the other.
One student made a threat against those opposing the policy on social media on Friday, Oct. 11, and Pickens County Sheriff’s Office promptly handled the situation.
At 8:45 p.m., Wilson addressed the crowd saying he would review everyone’s concerns and issue a press release with his decision over the next couple of days. However, for now, the transgender restroom procedure has been suspended.
Wilson told Fetch Your News that he would weigh everyone’s comments and make his decision soon. He didn’t reveal in which direction he was leaning.
Dr. Wilson apologized for misspeaking on a news outlet that the circuit 11 court system mandated the transgender bathrooms for schools. In fact, the ruling hasn’t gone into effect yet. The lower courts that heard the case before the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals found that not allowing a transgender student to use the bathroom that they identify with is sex discrimination.
Transgender is defined as an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. It does not correlate with any specific sexual orientation or sex. Gender represents one’s sense of self and how they want to be perceived by the world. Sex relates to a person’s biological status either male, female, or intersex.
As of June 2018, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed anti-discrimination laws to protect transgender people. Currently, Georgia is not one of those 18 states.
According to Ballotpedia, at least two other school systems have faced lawsuits dealing with transgender bathroom policy. Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board began when a transgender male sued the school for instituting a policy that prohibited transgender individuals from using the bathroom with which they identify. Grimm argued the school system violated Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
In a January 7, 2015 letter, The U.S. Department of Education interpreted this ban on gender discrimination included discrimination against people based on their gender identities and their use of bathrooms.
Grimm lost the initial decision but won a 2 to 1 decision in Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to interpret Title IX. As of 2017, the case was remanded back to the fourth circuit after new guidance from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
Doe v. Regional School Unit 26 holds the distinction of being the first case where a state court ruled that a trans-student could use the bathroom that they choose. The Supreme Court of Maine overturned lower court rulings on the basis of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Citizens of Pickens County have stated that they are prepared to go into legal battle with the school to prevent transgender bathrooms from coming to Pickens High School.