In a 4-1 vote, the Marion County School Board approved a resolution that requires students and staff to use the restroom that matches their biological sex, regardless of gender identity.
The April 26 meeting was held before a packed room, with overflow attendees watching via a television screen outside. According to Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s Transgender Inclusion Director, 47 people spoke on the proposal, and most were against it.
“By passing this hateful policy, you will be forever known as the North Carolina of school boards!” Duncan told the board during her testimony.
Even so, Board Chair Bobby James was the only “no” vote on the resolution, which states that “sex is defined as a person’s biological sex, either female or male, as determined at birth” and “there is a longstanding history in this nation and Florida public schools of restricting access to single-sex restrooms, locker rooms and other single-sex facilities on the basis of biological sex.”
That means school board members Nancy Stacy, Carol Ely, Angie Boynton and Board ViceChair Kelly King all voted in favor.
“We are very disappointed that the Marion County school board has decided to move forward with this blatantly unlawful gender inspection policy that subjects transgender students to excessive bullying, violence, and humiliation in our public schools,” says EQFL government affairs manager Carlos Guillermo Smith. “They have clearly violated Title IX protections which require transgender students be treated according to their gender identity.”
Smith adds that the ensuing battle could be very expensive.
“The school board’s actions set the district and the taxpayers on an unnecessary and expensive collision course with federal law and all recent court rulings which have upheld these protections based on gender identity. This battle is far from over,” he says.
LGBT activist and Orlando attorney Mary Meeks agrees with Guillermo Smith’s assessment of what this could cost the District, and attempted to warn board members in an email before the meeting. Her email lists federal law as it applies to the issue, including Title IX, which, again, prohibits discrimination against transgender students.
“The law is clear and it is irrefutable that the Board’s proposal is unlawful. The fact that this proposal is nevertheless being advanced, based on frivolous and dangerous arguments that have been proven many times to lack any factual or legal basis whatsoever, betrays an underlying political agenda that does not serve the interests of Marion County residents nor its students,” Meeks’ email reads.
She also advised the Board not to take the advice of Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay hate group that has been pushing these types of restrictions around the country.
Duncan says the emergency school board meeting was “hasty and discriminatory,” held in response to a lawsuit threat by Liberty Counsel and a single complaint from the parent of a student. She says the April 26 vote is especially disheartening because other school boards around Florida are working to be more supportive of transgender students.
“Over half of Florida’s School Boards recently attended the ‘All Together Now Conference,’ sponsored by Broward County Schools, to learn effective ways to implement LGBTQ-inclusive classroom policies and provide guidance to faculty and administrators,” Duncan says, adding that transgender students “already face an alarming amount of harassment and bullying” in schools and the new bathroom policy is “harmful and debilitating” to transgender youth.
“The suicide rate of young transgender people is already alarmingly high, and this resolution will only result in an increased marginalization of gender non-conforming students, placing them in harm’s way,” she says.
Thank Marion School Board Chair Bobby James for voting in support of transgender students:
Phone: (352) 427-3781
Tell Marion School Board members that forcing transgender students to use restrooms in opposition to their gender identities is unacceptable:
Phone: (352) 812-2723
Phone: (352) 288-0860
Phone: (352) 817-7371