MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama education officials have spent the past few weeks reviewing legal issues regarding transgender students accessing locker rooms and restrooms on school properties.
Officials with the Alabama Association of School Boards reviewed legal issues and provided information about federal action last year that placed requirements on an Illinois school system to allow a transgender student equal access to a girls’ locker room, Al.com reported. The meeting took place during the winter in the cities of Hoover, Huntsville, Selma, Decatur, Anniston and Chickasaw.
“We’re not trying to change anyone’s minds,” said Sally Smith, executive director with the AASB. “It was about this issue and what’s happening and these are the things to consider and the pivotal issues with the law.”
The session prompted some school officials to consider measures in dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender matters.
The AASB’s subject during its winter meetings was prompted by an agreement last year between a suburban Chicago school district and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to provide locker room access for a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team.
The agreement was approved in December. It required the school system to install five privacy stalls in the locker room that the transgender student must use and any other girl can choose to use as well.
Initially, school officials wanted the student to change beyond privacy curtains installed in the girls’ locker room, and the student agreed that she would probably use the curtains to change.
But the federal government said the transgender student needed to make the decision voluntarily, and not because of the district’s instructions.
Alabama is one of seven states where athletes participate on teams determined by the gender indicated on the student’s certified birth certificate.
Malissa Valdes-Huber, spokeswoman with the Alabama Department of Education, said there is no statewide rule or policy regulating building facilities, and that it’s up to local schools to abide by their rules.
Lou Campomenosi, president of the Baldwin County chapter of the Common Sense Campaign tea party, suggested the Baldwin County School Board consider reconfiguring one of its portable classrooms into a restroom for transgender students.
With overcrowding and growth in student population, the Baldwin County School System has among the most portable trailers utilized as a classroom within the state.
Cecil Christenberry, a Baldwin County School Board member, said the portable classroom-into-bathroom consideration isn’t on the district’s radar.
“The key words are respect and rights for everyone,” said Christenberry, about what the AASB’s message has been to local school boards. “We’re going to have to be proactive. It’s going to be a hot topic.”
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