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Transgender student’s battle divides rural Virginia town

Kim Williams, owner of the Short Lane Ice Cream shop, said she doesn’t hear much about the dispute from students who drop in. She wondered if the controversy could have been handled by letting the students decide.

Even among the student body, however, there is sharp disagreement.

“The way I look at it, gay, straight, transgender, hermaphrodite — I don’t discriminate,” Gloucester High School senior John Pence said. “I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.”

However, student Scott Williams told the school board that other teens who don’t want to run into Grimm in the restroom would speak up if not for the fear of being labeled intolerant.

“My friends and I are uncomfortable with co-ed bathrooms and locker rooms. Don’t we matter too? How is it fair to advance the rights of one by violating the rights of a thousand? The unisex restroom isn’t perfect, but it’s the best option,” he said.

Williams was among about three dozen residents who made impassioned two-minute pleas to the school board.

Local pastor Ralph VanNess asked, “Where does it end?” He added, as the audience applauded, that the rights of “the other young men in Gloucester High School” should be respected.

But another clergyman, Fred Carter, told the board: “The issue we are talking about now is the civil rights issue of this generation. Who are we to judge?”

Most school officials have clammed up about the dispute, citing the ongoing litigation. The school board defends its policy in court papers, saying it has a longstanding practice of limiting the use of restrooms based on a student’s biological gender.

University’s intolerance declaration raises concerns

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