Editorials

Don’t flush new CMS transgender bathroom policy

The Observer editorial board

People with opposing views face-off during the N.C. Values Coalition protest outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
People with opposing views face-off during the N.C. Values Coalition protest outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte on Tuesday, Aug. 9. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The N.C. Values Coalition says the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board should walk away from its controversial new anti-bullying policy.

We say the school board members should stand firm.

Religious conservatives upbraided the school board Tuesday over the new policy, which, among other things, allows transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender they identify with, as opposed to their birth certificate gender.

That puts other students’ “privacy, safety and dignity” at risk, the coalition contends.

Nonsense.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has explicitly said that all students will have access to increased privacy, such as a single-stall restroom or a screened area in the locker room. No girls will be forced to see boys’ private parts, or vice versa. It should go without saying, but no sane, moral adult would force that on any child. And that’s not what’s happening here.

CMS was right to adopt the policy. Given national estimates of the transgender population, there are likely hundreds of transgender children attending CMS schools – children whose acute sense of social ostracism sparks suicide attempts among them at four or five times the rate of other children.

When Superintendent Ann Clark said in June that the new anti-bullying rules are “about courage, understanding and compassion,” she wasn’t just spouting politically correct platitudes. She was speaking truth.

Charlotte’s Time Out Youth, which helps LGBT children, lost four transgender members to suicide in one single month, the group’s executive director told an Observer reporter last year.

Still, CMS was also right to pause its policy when the Supreme Court on Aug. 3 pumped the brakes on a lower court order that sided with a transgender boy in Virginia.

That case turns on a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that, among other things, shows deference to federal education officials’ pro-transgender interpretation of laws barring sex discrimination.

Justice Stephen Breyer joined the court’s four conservatives in pausing the ruling. But Breyer hinted that he did so only as a courtesy, to hold the status quo while the court is in recess. A 4-4 Supreme Court tie on the merits remains likely.

The 4th Circuit’s ruling would stand, effectively trumping House Bill 2, the state law that forces transgender people in North Carolina schools and other government buildings to use the restrooms matching their birth certificates.

CMS could – and should – then re-activate its policy.

That won’t please Franklin Graham. He warned his Facebook followers that a “gender unicorn” cartoon character CMS used in training materials for principals signals that the policy aims to “brainwash our children into accepting that homosexuality and transgender behavior is okay.”

Never mind that school board Chair Mary McCray said (twice) in Tuesday’s board meeting that “there is not, has not ever been, and will not be a plan or curriculum for CMS students on transgender issues.”

That pledge likely won’t satisfy the Values Coalition, which is bombarding the school board with emailed form letters. It seems to understand hardball politics better than it does the Sermon on the Mount.

No matter. School board members, hold your ground.

We teach our children to stand up to bullies. We adults should do no less.

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