Education

CMS puts transgender restroom rules on hold based on new court ruling

Gavin Grimm, a transgender male who lives in Gloucester, Va., was the subject of a Wednesday U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to suspend some of its new regulations on transgender students.
Gavin Grimm, a transgender male who lives in Gloucester, Va., was the subject of a Wednesday U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to suspend some of its new regulations on transgender students. AP

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has hit pause on new rules that would have given transgender students access to school bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender they identify with, Superintendent Ann Clark said Thursday.

The announcement coincides with a letter-writing campaign launched by the N.C. Values Coalition, which is urging parents to bombard CMS with letters saying the regulations that were announced in June would jeopardize students’ “privacy, safety and dignity.” But Clark says the change is based on a Wednesday Supreme Court ruling, not the protest letters.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Virginia school board could block a transgender male student from using the boys’ bathroom. The high court put on hold an appeals court ruling that CMS had used as the basis for some of its new regulations on treatment of transgender students. The situation could change again if the Supreme Court agrees to review that 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

“CMS remains committed to nurturing a safe and welcoming learning environment for every student. As a result of yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we have placed a temporary hold on the section of the CMS bullying prevention regulation which states that transgender students will be given access to the restroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their gender identity,” Clark said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “The rest of the regulation, which is intended to promote consistency in anti-bullying support for all students, will remain intact.”

The CMS regulations also say faculty must respect students’ choice of name and pronoun and instructs schools to avoid gender-based activities that have no educational purpose.

On Wednesday, the N.C. Values Coalition sent an email to the group’s supporters urging parents to protest the CMS regulations, which are slated to take effect when schools open in August. The email asks parents to sign an electronic letter saying that “this policy ignores both federal and state law, and jeopardizes the privacy, safety, and dignity of my child(ren). My child(ren) feel both anxious and disrespected faced with the reality that this new policy will force them to share intimate facilities with members of the opposite sex, threatening their well-being and peace of mind on a day-to-day basis.”

The Values Coalition has posted 57 pages of material CMS used to train faculty on LGBT issues on its “Keep NC Safe” website. The email, headed “meet the gender Unicorn,” includes a purple cartoon unicorn CMS used in its training. The unicorn graphic, created by a national transgender youth group, shows that gender identity, presentation, sexual and romantic attraction can include female, male and “other gender(s).”

“It’s startling enough that the school district feels they have sovereignty to directly disobey state statute as outlined in HB 2, but some of the stuff in here is shocking,” writes the coalition’s executive director, Tami Fitzgerald.

CMS Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block said Thursday the Values Coalition email misrepresents the intent of the district’s training. For instance, the email says the district encourages teachers to “keep parents in the dark.”

“When developing a plan for transgender students, CMS always prefers to involve parents unless there is a concern that doing so may compromise the student’s physical safety and well-being,” Block said.

The campaign comes as a judge weighs arguments for and against House Bill 2, which requires transgender people in government buildings to use restrooms that match their birth certificates, rather than their gender identities.

Clark said CMS had begun work on regulations regarding transgender students even before North Carolina lawmakers passed HB2 in March. The lawsuits and political uproar that ensued left principals and teachers confused and wary, she said.

Clark said all of the new rules are designed to ensure that all students feel safe and respected. “This is about courage, understanding and compassion,” she said in June.

Clark says CMS has no way of tallying how many students are transgender. Experts estimate that only 0.3 percent of the population is transgender, but in a district with about 146,000 students that would come to more than 400 children and teens.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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