Education

Transgender bathroom policy comes under fire at Clovis schools meeting

Clovis Unified school board members Sandy Bengel and Chris Casado, and Superintendent Janet Young listen during an April 6 meeting. The school board is considering proposals for new bathroom facilities and alternative physical education arrangements in response to parents concerned about policies that allow students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
Clovis Unified school board members Sandy Bengel and Chris Casado, and Superintendent Janet Young listen during an April 6 meeting. The school board is considering proposals for new bathroom facilities and alternative physical education arrangements in response to parents concerned about policies that allow students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. sflores@fresnobee.com

The Clovis Unified school board revisited requests for alternative physical education coursework and bathroom facilities in response to parents concerned about a state law allowing transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their identity.

“You’ve had three years to do something about this,” Josh Fulfer told the board Wednesday night, referring to the amount of time since Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1266, which extended gender discrimination protections to transgender and gender-nonconforming students. Some people who attended the board meeting expressed privacy concerns regarding females or males who may end up using the same bathrooms and locker rooms as students who identify with a gender different from their biological sex.

Fulfer and other parents uncomfortable with AB 1266 are members of a campaign titled Stop the Madness, which seeks alternate bathroom facilities and P.E. options in Clovis Unified.

“I don’t understand why parents have to be here just so their daughters are safe in the locker room,” Fulfer said.

The issue came to a head nationally this year, and the federal government in May directed school districts to allow students to use the restroom of their gender identity.

At a June town hall in Indiana, President Barack Obama said the directive was intended to protect students. “What happened and what continues to happen is you have transgender kids in schools. And they get bullied,” Obama said. “My best interpretation of what our laws and our obligations are is that we should try to accommodate these kids so that they are not in a vulnerable situation.”

Options sought by Stop the Madness members include allowing students to be able to do physical education at home. Stop the Madness members also proposed the district build permanent self-enclosed bathrooms by fall 2017, and provide temporary self-enclosed bathroom trailers to use for the 2016 school year. The use of the district’s general fund money was proposed to cover the cost.

Superintendent Janet Young said the district is researching the parents’ request. The district has been working already to create changing stalls in locker rooms for students, and the project should be completed by Sept. 2, Associate Superintendent Norm Anderson said.

“P.E. teachers will not have students dress out until the installations are fully completed,” Anderson said.

Associate Superintendent Michael Johnston said the district is exploring the cost of new facilities. To build 24 additional bathrooms at each high school, 16 at each intermediate school and 10 at each elementary school, as Stop the Madness proposed, would range in cost from around $1 million to around $26 million, Johnston said.

Johnston said the least-expensive option, simply installing additional portable toilets (at an estimated cost of $967,000), is not an acceptable option in any case. The district estimates bringing in bathroom trailers would cost $6.1 million, and building permanent facilities would cost $26 million.

Stop the Madness member Beth Swann said the bathroom facilities would help to alleviate the concerns that some parents have with the law.

“I think it’s a good meeting ground and compromise, if it’s within the law,” she said. “It would do well to ease the mind and give a little bit of relief to concerns of privacy.”

Razi Syed: 559-441-6679, @razisyed

  Comments