Darren Doyle, story and photo
Superintendent of Edmonson County Schools Patrick Waddell addressed the issue of President Obama's National transgender bathroom directive and what effect it will have on the local school district.
Several rumors have swirled around since the bathroom directive made national headlines last week. Several students and their parents went to social media yesterday and last night to weigh in on the highly controversial issue.
"Nobody took down the boys or girls bathroom signs, nobody put them back up, nobody touched them," said Supt. Waddell. "There were all sorts of things going around last night on social media and at school that simply were inaccurate."
According to Waddell, all public schools in the U.S. received a "Dear Colleague Letter" issued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice and U.S. Dept. of Education on Friday, May 13, 2016 regarding facility availability for all students. A statement on behalf of the entire school system said the school district "does and will continue to comply with all local, state, and federal laws and have reviewed the documents."
"First of all, the letter we received was simply a guidance document that was not tied to any specific laws," said Waddell. "We've been made aware that Governor Bevin stated he was also looking into providing guidance on how schools should act in this matter, and we've not received any further guidance from his office at this time."
Bevin had plenty to say in his reaction to Obama's directive. "Regarding Obama's proposed bathroom rules for public schools, it is difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue," he tweeted. "Under the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, the federal gov has no authority to interfere in local school districts' bathroom policies." He continued: "The President is not promoting unity. In fact, he is doing quite the opposite."
Bevin also stated, "If they (schools) do not agree with his personal opinion on policies that remain squarely in their jurisdiction they should not feel compelled to bow to such intimidation. My administration is researching the options available for ensuring that this local issue is decided by Kentuckians, not by bureaucrats in Washington."
So what does this mean for Edmonson County schools now? Not much, really. Waddell said the school system has always had policies in place to protect all students, no matter their race, sex, sexual preference, identity, religion, etc.
Waddell said Edmonson County Schools have always exercised different options that protect all students and provide safe environments and facilities in many forms. "All educational entities have to have some policy in place with regards to dealing with discrimination, which we do, and we always have. We feel that our current policies are appropriate as they are."
Waddell said that each school in the district provides single use bathrooms for any gender, and has for several years. "People don't realize that a number of students need private bathrooms for a number of reasons. Some are social issues, some need more privacy, others are private reasons, but we've provided these restrooms for those students for years and we feel because we're offering these, we are in compliance with this directive. We don't plan on making any changes to our policies at this time."
As far as letting natural born females use the boys restrooms or natural born males use the girls restroom, Waddell says as of now, that is not going to be an option, and that's the big question many parents and students have had since the national headlines last week.
Several students voiced their concerns, the majority of which were not in favor of changing any school policy. Most opinions were strongly against the sharing of the standard bathrooms should that policy alone be forced within the schools.
"This should be a local decision," said ECHS junior Caleb Skaggs. "And we as Edmonson County need to stand up for what we believe in. We should be against this."
Senior Alex Whitfill had a similar opinion. "It's good to have different beliefs and we should respect everyone's opinions, but in saying that, I'd never allow my child or my younger brother to go to the bathroom with someone of the opposite gender, no matter how they identify themselves," she said. "While God teaches us that we should love everyone, He also teaches that we should stand up for what we believe in, but not with hate. I believe a compromise can be made for the kids who feel they need a separate bathroom without compromising their safety and the community's beliefs."
Sophomore Alexis Young said just the opposite. "No matter how many people don't agree, trans people ARE people and they deserve rights. It isn't about bathrooms, just like it was never about water fountains. It's about everyone's right to happiness and equality."
Fourteen other students gave us comments that were against the sharing of bathrooms, but didn't want to go on record. Two others who felt strongly in favor of shared bathrooms and transgender rights also asked for us not to publish their comments.
Jhonna Basil, a senior, was very vocal. "I feel like transgender stuff is just a way for some people to get attention," she said. "I definitely don't feel comfortable knowing a guy is allowed to come into the girls bathroom while I'm in there."
She also said that men's and women's bathrooms are merely common sense issues, and the forced sharing of bathrooms would be discrimination against everyone else that weren't transgenders.
"If you were born a man, you're a man, if you were born a woman, you're a woman. God made you that way. It's an abomination," she added.
Junior Hallie Atkins said she felt like that men should NOT be allowed to be in a bathroom with women. "It's a gateway to rape," she said. "After all, how can one prove that someone is trans? You can't."
A March 2016 study at the Williams Institute estimated the total transgender population of those age 13 and older in Kentucky was 16,656. According to the latest census totals, the total population of Kentucky is approximately 4,434,500, which means transgender people make up only 1/3 of one percent of the total population in the state, or .03%.
Some argue there shouldn't be laws of any kind for .03% of any group if a large majority feel otherwise. Others argue that transgender rights are simply human rights, and they should be defended, no matter the percentage.
"We've always done what we feel is best for our students," Waddell said. "We allow our principals and counselors to make decisions as to what individual students need, and what we're doing is nothing new and nothing in reaction to this document. We believe that the letter stipulates that single use restrooms are sufficient."