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N.C. college battles transgender student over alleged discrimination

MATT COMER | QNotes
Saturday, April 5, 2014
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QNotesStudent Andraya Williams speaks to a media outlet during an April 4 rally supporting her, after she says officials at Central Piedmont Community College harassed and discriminated against her.

QNotes
Student Andraya Williams speaks to a media outlet during an April 4 rally supporting her, after she says officials at Central Piedmont Community College harassed and discriminated against her.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dozens of students and community members gathered Friday afternoon to protest alleged discrimination at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, calling on the college to apologize to a transgender student who claims she was mistreated and harassed by the school.

The college has come under scrutiny after Andraya Williams, 22, said she was harassed and detained by campus security officers on March 18 after using a restroom.

Williams said a female campus security officer stopped her and asked her if she is male or female. Williams said she was female, to which the officer laughed, she says.

Williams says she was then escorted off campus and told she was suspended. Additionally, Williams and her attorney, Sarah Demarest, say that campus officials worked to prevent her from filing a complaint regarding the incident. One official, Williams alleges, told her she had “no legal rights.”

“I don’t understand why I was suspended and escorted off campus,” Williams says. “They were really just treating me like I had just robbed a bank or like I was a real criminal.”

Williams says she met with Mark Helms, Dean of Student Life, the following day and was told she was suspended for refusing to show her ID. Williams insist she did so immediately when the first officer asked for it.

Williams also says Helms told her she must use gender-neutral restrooms, of which she is aware of only two on campus.

Helms allegedly told Williams that she needed to provide the school “medical proof” she is female.

“I’m confused because everyone involved in the situation knows I was suspended for being a transgender person using a female restroom and they put it on paper that I was suspended for not showing my ID,” Williams says.

On Thursday, the school also released its first formal, written statement on the incident.

“The College has examined its policies and procedures, and we are certain that they are in compliance with current laws. The College will work to ensure those policies are followed and clearly communicated,” CPCC spokesperson Jeff Lowrance said.

Lowrance had no comment on the protest Friday afternoon. He did say, however, that the school intends to begin reaching out to and planning meetings with LGBT community groups and leaders next week.

The college has also fired back against reports that Williams was suspended, denying that Williams was suspended and saying she is in good standing as a current student.

“True suspension from the college can come only through the student discipline process,” Lowrance said Friday afternoon. “There is no suspension on the student’s CPCC record. She is in good standing with the college.”

On Friday night, the college’s official Twitter account, @cpcc, struck back at online critics with a series of confrontational tweets quite unusual for public institutions.

More in-depth coverage on this developing story is at QNotes.


© QNotes. North Carolina's statewide LGBT news source.
An LGBTQ Nation media partner.

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