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.
Cherry Log, Ga. – Amidst allegations and being wanted “in connection with kidnapping and sexual assault,” Bradley Justin Cochran was found dead yesterday in Metter, Ga from an apparent suicide.
Cochran lived in Cherry Log, Ga and was a former student of Pickens County High School, according to his Facebook Profile.
A release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) states the Cochran allegedly forced his way into a vehicle with three women at a grocery store in Statesboro. After they drove into Candler County, Cochran allegedly sexually assaulted two of the women before stealing the car and leaving the females on foot.
The Statesboro Police Department posted on their Facebook Page Monday saying, “As events unfolded, our officers were amazed by their strength and bravery. These women were just minding their own business, trying to leave the parking lot, when a stranger threatened them with a knife and forced his way into their vehicle.”
All three survived the encounter. Police say it is simply because of the quick action in a fight for survival. Hailing the girls as survivors and warriors.
They continued to praise the victims for their action as they “were able to create a diversion so one of them could escape, from a moving vehicle, to get help. She was able to give law enforcement vital information that led to the identification of the suspect and helped locate the other two women, and most likely saved their lives.”
The GBI was requested to join the investigation on Sunday, August 26, by the Candler County Sheriff’s Office and the Statesboro Police Department.
As the search for Cochran grew to include all three agencies, the Candler County Sheriff’s Office stated, “There was an extensive investigation and manhunt throughout the night and into the morning. All agencies and personnel involved demonstrated how a multi-agency operation should be carried out.”
At this time, the investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but the GBI did confirm that Cochran’s body will be sent to the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Savannah, Ga for official cause and manner of death.
Dave sits down each Tuesday with the head coach of the Pickens Dragons, Chris Parker. Together they discuss the game from the week before and the upcoming game.
Pickens County Government, like many other government entities is taking full advantage of the hot summer months to pave as many roads as financially possible. All paving projects are funded through LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) and SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) dollars. During the month of July, subcontractor crews repaved: Upper Grandview, Grandview Circle, Hickory Cove, Cove View Valley, Cove Hill Road, Old Cove Road, Scott Drive, Southbrook Drive, Eastwood Circle, Paradise Lane, East Eden Way, and West Eden Way. The 2018 paving contract is now roughly 65 percent complete with the remainder to be paved in the coming weeks. Pickens County Public Works repaved: Griffith Road and Tate Mill Way. Additionally, they completed a project to widen Pettit Road and plan to begin tar and graveling that road, along with Jordan Road, Thomason Road, and Evans Road. Public Works is continuing routine maintenance around the county while dealing with some inclement weather. Over the last few weeks, Public Works has cleaned up 95 trees downed by heavy rain and wind.
During the month of July, the 911 Operations Center received 1,809 total calls, 753 were medical responses and fire related. The Water Department installed 10 new meters. The Department of Planning and Development issued 37 new building permits. The Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 101 animals, and 100 animals went out through various forms of adoption. Animal Control responded to 7 cases. The Recreation Department concluded another successful year of Summer Camp with an average of 55 kids a day. Pickens County Fire Station #12 off Carlan Road is expected to be completed in approximately two months. The exterior of the structure is nearly complete with now the focus on the interior construction. Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working hard for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continues to do an excellent job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments. To stay up to date like us on Facebook and Twitter, and check out our website www.pickenscountyga.gov.
Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!
The Dragon football program held their 2018 Meet the Dragon event on Friday and excitement for the 2018 season filled the air. With Kindergarten through 12th grade participating, the afternoon started with the high school varsity scrimmage followed by junior varsity, ninth grade, eight grade and seventh grade. The Dragon youth teams also held scrimmages with the 6U and 7U, 8U and 9U, and finished up with the 10U scrimmaging the 11U.
Head varsity Coach and Athletic Director for Pickens County said the he was really excited to so many from the Pickens County area show up not only to support these athletes but also to support the Dragon program as a whole. Through out the evening, fans enjoyed jump houses and shaved ice from local vendors that support the dragons. Concessions were also available as well as raffle tickets for purchase with all proceeds going to assist the Dragons in purchasing both equipment for the players and other things needed to make a football program successful. At the end of the Meet the Dragon event, a silent auction took place to further support the Dragons. In the silent auction, last minute bids started with hopes of getting that special item and bring even more funds to the Dragons.
One of most exciting times in the evening was the 6U and 7U teams taking the field to scrimmage each other. If you have ever seen these age groups play you know that sometimes the helmets are bigger than the players but this did not stop these super young athletes from getting after it. These little guys did very well in making tackles and running the plays that their coaches have been showing them. The Dragon program looks really good for many years to come. It is obvious that some will move away and some will stop playing football to possibly move to other sports but either way someone will get good athletes in the future.
Over 400 players and cheerleaders participated in the event with at least twice that in attendance. The fans were very pleased with the execution of the event and look forward to next year’s Meet the Dragons for 2019. This season kicks of on Thursday August 9th as the Middle School welcomes the Indians of Lumpkin Co into Dragon Stadium for a scrimmage and the high school will hold their preseason scrimmage the following night as they take the field against Denmark High School out of Forsyth Co.
See all photos at Team FYN Sports on Facebook
On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of last week the Dragons held their annual youth camps for football and cheer. Coach Chris Parker and his staff along with high school players took to the practice field to teach kindergarten through 7th grade athletes.
The camp attendees moved across 10 skill stations to learn both new skills and also to enhance those skills already in their repertoire. Several of the stations focused on safety of the skills learned. Proper technique of tackling and blocking is vital for the safety of both the offensive and defensive players. Other stations consisted of passing, receiving and different types of set ups and schemes to be used in games. A large amount of success in the camp goes to the high school players for their dedication and of course patience with over 180 energetic youth.
Part of the camp gets the young ladies out to work with the high school cheerleaders and their coaches to teach new cheers, work on and learn additional skills and techniques to prepare the new and current little Dragons to get the crowds fired up and cheer on the guys on the field. The cheer side of the camp brought out around 130 working their way through several stations that taught them toe touches, tumbling and and as stated previously new cheer routines. The high school cheerleaders also were vital in the camps success with their time being volunteered and their heart for these young ladies to have fun and learn at the same time.
With almost 400 youth showing their interest in Dragons youth football and cheer, the high school program should be set for years to come. As Athletic Director for all of Pickens County, Chris Parker has to be excited as they move forward over the next several years.
Another busy month has passed for Pickens County with lots in store for the Summer. On May 22nd voters across the county went to the polls to vote on a variety of elections and ballot questions. The overall voter turnout of registered voters was 25.56 percent with a total of 5,101 votes cast. One local race (District One Commissioner) resulted in a runoff election that will take place on July 24th. Early voting for the runoff will be weekdays July 2-20 (excluding the July 4th holiday) at the Board of Elections. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce helped to orchestrate a successful partnership for the BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) that passed through town in early June. This event brought an increase of customers shopping at local establishments.
During the month of May, the Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 110 animals, and 94 animals went out through various forms of adoption. Animal Control responded to 29 cases. The Department of Planning and Development issued 43 new building permits. The Water Department installed six new meters. The 911 Operations Center received 1,865 total calls, 726 were medical responses and fire related. The Recreation Department pool is now open, and several camps are ongoing throughout the Summer. To keep up to date on PCRD activities follow them on Facebook and Twitter and check out their website: pickrec.com. The Road Department is preparing to begin tar and graveling several roads across the county. They are also continuing to perform routine road maintenance. Subcontractor crews through LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) and SPLOST (Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) funding are currently paving county-maintained roads within Hunters Ridge. After the crews resurface those roads, they will begin paving the remainder of the 62 roads set to be paved through LMIG. Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working hard for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continues to do a great job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments.
Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!
By: Tucker Green – Pickens County Board of Education Post Three