Two mothers of Clovis Unified School District students say their daughters suffered from anxiety after changing alongside a transgender student in the locker room at Alta Sierra Intermediate School.
At a school board meeting on Wednesday evening, Kathy Hannen and Emily Wildey criticized Clovis Unified trustees for allegedly ignoring their concerns. The parents say they first contacted administrators in May, after their daughters said they felt uncomfortable undressing for a swim class in front of a biological boy. The parents say their options were “to accept it and deal with it or withdraw,” citing state law that protects transgender students’ rights to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed that law in 2013, but the federal government made a similar directive in May, sparking a national conversation.
Hannen said her daughter was forced to disrobe in front of the student for a semester, and that it “goes against everything we have taught her.” She says the school denied her requests to make other accommodations for her daughter, and that the district tried to keep the situation quiet.
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“Explain to my 14-year-old that this did not happen. Explain to her that she was not forced all semester to change in front of a boy,” Hannen said. “While everyone is denying that this happened, nobody is actually reaching out to my daughter. This is happening, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
What do you do when God’s law goes this way and man’s law goes this way?
Clovis Unified parent Emily Wildey
Last month, another claim was made that a 9-year-old boy was “traumatized” after seeing a girl use a urinal at a Clovis Unified school. But following an investigation, Clovis Unified later said the allegations were false. Ivette Lee, a Clovis Unified parent who publicly relayed the story of the boy at a board meeting Aug. 31, retracted her statement on Wednesday, saying she had not received proof that the story was true.
Hannen and Wildey both took issue with the district’s response to that particular claim. The district sent out a news release saying that “no biological female was seen to enter or exit a boys’ bathroom,” and that the story had no credibility.
“You cannot say (CUSD) does all these things so well and ignore the one elephant in the room,” Wildey said.
Wildey – who now home-schools her daughter because of her experience at Alta Sierra – pointed out that the school board starts each public meeting with a prayer.
“What do you do when God’s law goes this way and man’s law goes this way?” she said. “At some point, you have to choose what you’re going to do. We’re not asking you to break the law. We are asking you to fight for our children.”
Hannen, whose daughter now attends Buchanan High, said she never requested that the transgender student be removed from class, but asked that her own daughter have another option. The problem is not with transgender students, she says.
“This is not about transgender. This is about every student having the right to privacy and it being denied multiple times,” she said. “We’re just trying to expose that this is a situation that can happen in Clovis Unified. We were blindsided. When my daughter first told me, I didn’t believe it. I thought I would be informed if there was a biological male in my child’s P.E. locker room.”
Other parents on Wednesday, who are part of the Stop the Madness group, spoke in support of the two mothers. Stop the Madness is leading efforts against policies that allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. While Clovis Unified has installed private changing stalls and is piloting the use of standalone bathroom trailers in light of parents’ privacy concerns, the group says it’s not enough.
Crystal Reed, a member of Stop the Madness, was outraged on Wednesday about the district’s response to parents’ concerns. She says the new changing stations should have locked doors instead of curtains and that students should be allowed to opt out of P.E. classes that make them uncomfortable.
“The administration was going around telling people that this didn’t happen. That’s a slap in the face,” Reed said. “I have an issue with the morality of the fact that if my daughter is uncomfortable with a boy changing next to her that she doesn’t have rights, too. The rights are one-sided.”
Clovis Unified Deputy Superintendent Carlo Prandini apologized to Wildey and Hannen on Wednesday.
“Accommodations should’ve been made like that,” Prandini said, snapping his fingers. “As you can tell, it’s a very passionate and complicated situation we’re in. Our goal as educators is to provide a positive environment for all of our students.”
Prandini said accommodations can be made for students who voice concerns, regardless of their gender.
“Kids being uncomfortable in locker rooms is not a new phenomenon. Body image and modesty are things P.E. instructors have had to deal with for decades,” he said. “But with the concern about the transgender bathroom usage, we have really amped up our efforts. … We are making accommodations for both transgender and non-transgender kids at a couple of campuses. To our knowledge, it’s working out well.”
Local transgender advocacy groups have applauded the district’s privacy accommodations. Earlier this year, the district made national headlines after it refused to adopt a gender-neutral dress code despite warnings from the American Civil Liberties Union that its then-current policy was illegal. Then, several parents came out in favor of keeping the strict dress code that some said was harmful to transgender students because it forbid boys from wearing earrings and long hair. In a re-vote, the board ultimately adopted a policy that complies with gender-expression laws.