MARIONVILLE, Mo. — A southwest Missouri school district has a new policy governing bathroom usage for transgender students that some civil rights advocates are calling discriminatory.
The Marionville School District recently adopted a policy allowing students to either use a gender-neutral bathroom or a bathroom designated for their biological sex, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
The district is among several others, including Fair Grove, Stockton, El Dorado Springs and Bernie in southeast Missouri, that have adopted such policies after a group of students protested over a transgender Hillsboro High School student who was allowed to change in the girls’ locker room.
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Under the new Marionville policy, students who participate in physical education classes requiring a locker room or shower are expected to use facilities designated for their biological gender. They can also take an alternative PE class that doesn’t require changing clothes or showering.
The new Marionville policy also allows students to change their name once every school year, use whatever pronoun they prefer and dress in the same manner as the gender with which they identify as long as they are consistent with school dress code.
Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy for the ACLU of Missouri, called Marionville’s policy “blatant discrimination.” She said the policy conflicts with federal guidelines for transgender students, who should be able to use a bathroom or locker room of the gender they identify with.
“Transgender students need to be treated with dignity and respect just like any other students, and policies like this do just the opposite,” Rossi said.
Marionville’s new policy also says the needs of each transgender student must be assessed case-by-case.
Marionville superintendent Larry Brown said the school board adopted the policy based on recommendations from the school’s insurance company and attorney, Tom Mickes. Mickes is with the Missouri Consultants for Education, one of two organizations that create and recommend policies for Missouri schools.
Mickes said MCE created its policy model to counter recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that include allowing transgender students who identify as being female to shower with biologically-born females.
“Female students have a well-developed legal right to be secure in their body integrity. They have the right not to be naked in front of a male,” Mickes said. “We are going to provide alternatives, but showering with them is not one of the options.”
Steph Perkins, interim director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide organization advocating for LGBT equality, said he hopes Marionville and other schools will not feel forced to follow these recommended policies to the letter and instead take a case-by-case approach.
“While these policies are a huge step in the right direction, we hope that any steps that have been made to support students aren’t reversed because of a policy,” Perkins said.
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