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Colorado girls claim transgender student is sexually harassing them in girls' bathroom

October 15, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Whose rights should prevail when a transgender student is allowed to use a high school girls' bathroom and girls' locker room but other girls claim that their classmate is sexually harassing them there?

Apparently that's the situation at Florence High School in Florence, Colo. Last week, the conservative website CBN News reported that school officials told the girls that the transgender student has a right to use the girls' restroom. Those who complained were allegedly threatened with school discipline, such as being removed from athletic teams or being charged with hate crimes.

There isn't enough information available about the actual situation to say who's actually at fault. There is no description of exactly what the transgender student, born male but feeling like a girl, did that the girls thought was "harassment." There is no information about what the girls might have said or done to the transgender student or whether the girls' reactions are fueled by dislike of the entire situation. Their parents have claimed that the girls' privacy is being violated.

The conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which sent a letter to the school asking the school to respect the girls' right to freedom of speech and their privacy rights, asserts that the transgender student sometimes uses the boys' bathroom instead of the girls' bathroom and doesn't always consistently identify as either male or female. In response to the girls' concern, the administrators allegedly suggested that the girls avoid using the girls' locker room and instead use a staff bathroom that is inconveniently located and is locked during some of the after school activities the girls take part in, according to the letter sent by Pacific Justice Institute. The letter, placed on its website by BizPac Review, can be seen at this link: http://www.bizpacreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PJI_letter_to_FHS_10-1.10.13.pdf

The superintendent of the school has reportedly said the story is false, according to a blog at The Transadvocate.com Media Matters further reports, based on the Transadvocate.com interview with the superintendent, that the superintendent claims one disgruntled parent took his or her complaints to the media after not getting the response he or she wanted from school administrators. The school has not actually verified that there is any truth to the allegations that have been made. However, the Oct. 10 letter from the Pacific Justice Institute gave the school five days to refute the allegations made in the letter. I have not seen the school's letter in response. It would be interesting to see all the facts laid out.

Without knowing more, I'd be inclined to say that any kid who is bullying another should be appropriately disciplined by the school and hopefully by their parents as well. That would apply to the transgender student as well as to any of the girls who have behaved inappropriately. No kid should be disciplined for respectfully objecting to this state of affairs.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled last summer that a first-grade transgender child, born a boy, must be allowed to use the girls' bathroom at a school elsewhere in the state. I would assume that the actions taken by administrators at Florence High School are in response to that ruling. But school administrators also have to respect the rights of other students.

Update:

The Pacific Justice Institute posted an updated press release on its website on Thursday. Their main objection continues to be that the transgender student is permitted to use girls' bathrooms at the school, which they say is a violation of the girls' privacy rights. Their allegation of sexual harassment by the transgender student appears to be on far shakier ground, judging by the press release and their statements to the media. However, they said the school administration has not yet identified any factual allegations in the letter sent by Pacific Justice Institute that Florence High School administrators consider to be disputed.

“Transgender activists are in full damage control mode because they know how explosive and damaging to their cause this story is,” noted Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, in the press release. “The central issue in this case—a high school’s decision to give a biological teenage boy full access to teenage girls’ bathrooms is both disturbing and not seriously disputed. It is very revealing that the Superintendent is seeking sympathy from transgender activists instead of addressing the serious concerns raised in our letter.”

The Pacific Justice Institute has asked for a detailed response to its letter by the end of the week.

 
 

Article Comments

(16)

AndreaJohnson

Oct-21-13 9:41 PM

A couple of publications have interviewed the transgender kid, who is apparently the child of a lesbian couple and say the 16-year-old is timid and shy and just wants to be left alone. The kid completely denies the allegations and other kids at the school have also spoken out in support of that position.

I think the problem here is probably that a certain segment of kids and their parents don't like the idea of the transgender student using the girls' bathroom. It sounds like a sad situation for this kid, though I also think the school must also respect the rights of other kids to say they object and should not threaten to punish them for speaking out.

locomotive

Oct-21-13 1:55 PM

"I've seen a couple of anonymous online comments at various sites by kids claiming to be students at this school."

On other MDN articles, there have been posts stating that Fox news PR employees have had up to 20 aliases to counter anti-Fox comments, and posts that c/p a Daily Kos blogger who posted on redstate as a rabidly religious fundamentalist to stir the pot, as they say.

People do pretend online out there in the vast blogosphere, some for grins and giggles, some for other purposes.

Nowadays, I have my salt shaker handy while reading or viewing anything. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world...

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 8:00 PM

== Continued == and today is the 16th. I haven't seen a reply from the school district referenced or posted on the BizPac site. Surely, the school would be interested in correcting any perceived errors in the letter sent by the Pacific Justice Institute.

In addition, the Pacific Justice Institute cited a number of court cases as well as state laws that would seem to indicate the school is not required to allow the transgender student to use the girls' restroom, contrary to what the school authorities allegedly told the parents. I'd also like to see some reference made by the school acknowledging the other kids' right to freedom of speech. This sort of situation is bound to come up in schools elsewhere.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 7:57 PM

I have read the complete statement from the superintendent at that site and I will withhold judgement. Having interviewed a number of superintendents myself over the years, I know there are certain things they cannot say about the minor students attending their schools or allegations made against them. They are also usually eager to avoid controversy.

The superintendent has made the claim that one parent complained, didn't get the reaction he or she wanted and then took the complaint to the media. The school's investigation of any complaints turned up no problem. However, another report that came out yesterday from the area said the allegations are under investigation by law enforcement and the superintendent refused comment to the reporter for that outlet, citing a possible legal case. The Pacific Justice Institute also asked for a reply from the school district refuting or correcting any of the allegations they disagreed with within five days. The letter was dated Oct. 10.

ZoeBrain

Oct-16-13 6:48 PM

Excellent report. Some of the comments though don't seem to realise that the superintendent's statement went a bit further than saying "there was no situation". The issue had been investigated, and the no allegations of harassment were found. The FJI letter (available at ***********bizpacreview****/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PJI_letter_to_FHS_10-1.10.13.pdf ) doesn't state any specifics. Just that they claim to represent some clients (they don't say how many) whose names they didn't supply, who they claim allege that some sexually harassing remarks (they don't say what they were) were made by an unspecified student to other unspecified students on an unspecified date at an unspecified place.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 12:33 PM

== Continued == But compassion and understanding don't necessarily mean that the rights of other students who may be uncomfortable with the situation should be ignored or that they should be denied their First Amendment rights.

It bothers me a bit to see so many blogs that have pounced on some anonymous online comments by students and the superintendent's statement to the Transadvocate that there "is no situation" as proof that the story was completely fabricated. There also appears to be disdain for the fact that the complainants are represented by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute and the story appeared in CBN News. Just because conservatives have complained doesn't mean the complaint should be dismissed out of hand. It requires investigation, like every serious complaint, and free speech rights should not be ignored just because the position that has been taken is unpopular with mainstream media. The Pacific Justice Institute raised valid points in its letter.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 12:28 PM

== Continued == In addition, scientific research also has proven that if one identical twin is homosexual, the other is more likely than average to also be homosexual, but not necessarily. It's not 100 percent genetic and probably not completely accurate to say someone is "born that way." Sexual orientation and gender identity also seems to be a continuum, with most people at the far end, with their identity conforming to their biological gender and others in the middle, attracted in one degree or another to both sexes, and others at the far right end, attracted to the same sex. There are also asexual people -- perhaps 1 percent of the population, who have little or no sexual attraction to anyone at all. I don't know where the kid at the Colorado high school falls on that continuum. He or she sounds confused and is probably even more miserable than the average adolescent. He or she deserves a great deal of compassion and understanding.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 12:22 PM

Technically, there's a distinction between being gay and being transgender. The first describes a person who is sexually attracted to the same sex; the second describes someone who feels as though and believes they were born the wrong gender. Based on some of the scientific research I've seen, I think it's quite likely that sexual orientation and gender dysphoria both have their origins in the hormones the child is exposed to in the womb or perhaps very early in child development as well as genes that might predispose them to same sex attraction. Sexual orientation, like most things, is about genes interacting with the environment. It's not 100 percent inborn and not 100 percent environmental. Identical twins are not always both gay or both transgender. There is a recent example of a set of identical teenage twin boys where one feels like a boy and the other is undergoing hormone therapy to become a girl.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-16-13 11:08 AM

There are some places that are considering unisex/gender neutral bathrooms and others have had the transgender student use another bathroom such as the staff bathroom or one in the school nurse's office. The latter seems to be considered problematic or discriminatory against the child and there have been lawsuits filed to try to get schools to let the kid use the bathroom designated for the gender he or she identifies with. Another interesting thing about this case is that the school principal is alleged to have presented the staff bathroom as a solution to the girls who complained, not the transgender student.

I've seen a couple of anonymous online comments at various sites by kids claiming to be students at this school. Both of them claim the transgender student did not harass the girls and is actually the one who's been beaten up in the boys' bathroom and subject to nasty comments from the girls. It's hard to know what's really the truth.

locomotive

Oct-16-13 10:10 AM

TxMom is right. Loads of common sense there.

I'm thinking that a separate bathroom should be made. That way, the boys can be boys, the girls can be girls, and the choosers can be what they like in their own bathroom.

Would that make everyone happy?

EarlyBird

Oct-16-13 9:34 AM

j/k on that last post although I do agree with TXMomof3. So when they file taxes do they file as both male and female? Or other?

EarlyBird

Oct-16-13 9:32 AM

I agree with TXMomof3. Build them a closet with facilities.

TXMomof3

Oct-16-13 6:11 AM

You should use the bathroom or locker room of the gender you were born. As the parent of two teen girls, I would be greatly upset if they were forced to share facilities with a male student. I am sick of the rights of the minority infringing on our rights as the majority. If need be, separate bathroom for them.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-15-13 5:59 PM

Perhaps the claim that the school has violated the girls' free speech rights is most interesting. I see that the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan ruled in favor of a high school student who claimed he was thrown out of class in 2010 for saying that he doesn't accept gays and it is against his religion. The court said his First Amendment rights were violated by the teacher. That case, Glowacki et. al vs. Howell School District, might have gone differently if the kid had infringed on another student's rights with his statement during a class discussion. In this case, are the girls who object infringing on the rights of the transgender student or is that student infringing upon theirs?

AndreaJohnson

Oct-15-13 3:57 PM

In addition, The Daily Mail article was apparently retracted, following complaints to an organization that oversees news reporting in Britain, though the story remains on the CBN, FOX Nation and Pacific Justice Institute websites. I think it remains interesting for what it says about the clash of competing rights between students at this high school.

AndreaJohnson

Oct-15-13 3:38 PM

It was reported on last week by The Daily Mail, which picked it up from CBN. Then the report spread to several conservative blogs and now seems to have been reported by FOX Nation, based on the Daily Mail report. As I said, it's not entirely clear exactly what the kid is alleged to have done or why the girls or their parents have complained. The clearest picture of the allegations comes from the Pacific Justice Institute letter, which I have given a link for above. They are claiming the transgender boy made sexually harassing comments to girls in the girls' locker room or girls' bathroom and that the girls were threatened with disciplinary action for complaining about a transgender student using the girls' bathroom.

 
 

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