TROY — At Monday’s Troy Board of Education meeting, more than 20 community members spent nearly two hours asking questions about the district’s policy regarding gender identity and the use of school restroom facilities.
Approximately 50 people were in the audience at the Troy High School auditorium. All board members were present.
A city of Kettering parent of a transgender child, several local pastors, a transgender male, and dozens of community members on both sides of the issue were given three minutes to ask the board of education questions or state their opinion. The board modified its public participation policy resolution at the beginning of the regular business meeting to allow more public participation. The prior policy limited each participant five minutes to speak with a 30-minute time cap for all public comments.
Troy City Schools Board of Education President Doug Trostle made a the following statement prior to opening the floor up to community comments: “Troy City Schools is responsible for our students’ safety and education. We must ensure everyone is given the opportunity to achieve that right. When any student or family approaches us to express their rights as an individual we follow the law and do what we can to protect them in all circumstances. In addition, the district must be a good steward of public resources. When it comes to treatment of transgender students, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice has stated under Title IX, transgender students should be treated consistent with their gender identity for restroom access. We believe it will not be in the best interest of taxpayers to take a position counter to these federal agencies. Over the past several weeks there have been a lot of questions and concerns about this issue. We agree that this is not about any one student, but all students. We are confident that the policy being enforced follows the law and appropriately makes accommodations for the privacy and safety of all students. Our goal is to focus on education and making sure students are learning to their greatest potential.”
The district also provided a three-page frequently asked questions about the district’s transgender students along with the board’s agenda. The information packet addressed the district’s accommodations for transgender students, its rules for restroom use, the district’s dress code policy, and extra-curricular activity participation guidelines in regards to transgender students.
The FAQ information can be found online at http://www.troy.k12.oh.us/docs/Informational%20FAQ.pdf
More than 20 community members spoke at the meeting Monday.
Melissa Leembrugen said she currently has two students in the district and is concerned about bathroom policy implementation, parental privacy and inquired about each board member’s stance of the policy. Leembrugen helped facilitate a community meeting at a Troy church on Sept. 1 to discuss the district’s decision. At the community meeting, Leembrugen shared that a group started a blog and website called bathroomprivacy.org to urge the board to change its policy.
“If you are addressing the policy for one student that has requested an accommodation, how are all the other students who don’t want the accommodation being addressed in a fair way?” Leembrugen asked.
Trostle said, “All students will have the same equal opportunity to — as a result of their gender identity — use a facility appropriate for that gender.”
Leembrugen argued that federal law requests anatomy — based clarification for gender classification, found on federal documents such as a birth certificate.
Trostle said he would not engage in a debate with participants and stated the board of education has had constant communication with its legal counsel to advise the district to take appropriate action.
Jessica Minesinger, a parent of three children including a junior high school student, shared that she and her family appreciated the amount of communication from the district about the issue.
“We appreciate the dialogue and the time you’ve dedicated to that,” she said. “We have no fears about our children’s privacy being compromised, we are not worried for them using the bathroom. Most importantly in talking with our kids, they are not concerned with their privacy. Our children don’t feel like they are in danger. They don’t feel like they are being discriminated against.”
Minesinger said her children feel they are well informed about the gender identity issue and if they are uncomfortable at any time, they are allowed to use the gender neutral bathroom in the school’s clinic.
“In talking to my children and their friends about this issue, they weren’t really sure what the big deal was and this is not on my children’s radar,” Minesinger said. “I know this is a really sensitive and highly charged issue and I appreciate you protecting the rights of all students, including mine, and the rights of others.”
In previous reports, Troy City Schools Superintendent Eric Herman said he is simply following the law to offer gender-neutral restroom facilities in the district’s schools.
Herman said the decision was prompted by a Troy Junior High School student who came forward at the beginning of the school year, identifying as a male, who asked to use the male restroom at the school. Herman said several meetings have been held with the child’s parents in connection with the request.
In accordance with the Title IX federal educational act, which the Troy City School District follows, Herman said, by law, he must provide the facilities to the student. Herman said following direction from the district’s legal counsel, Julie Martin of Scott, Scriven & Wahoff LLP of Columbus, and speaking to board of education members, he made the gender-neutral restroom decision on Aug. 28.