Several parents and one articulate high-school freshman spoke out Monday evening at the Hartland School Board meeting.
Additionally, The Midwesterner received several emails from one board member and several other irate parents.
At issue is a concern raised by students who identify as the gender opposite from their birth identity using school restrooms reserved for their adopted sex. In other words, boys with male genitalia who identify as girls are using women’s restrooms, and vice versa.
“It has been brought to my attention for a while now that there are some major concerns regarding safety for students in our community, one of which is biological males being in female bathrooms,” Scott and Trisha Fessler emailed members of the school board. “This is a concern not only for students and parents but should be a concern for every Hartland School District taxpaying resident.”
The Fessler’s email continued: “Since the millage renewal has passed, I would like to see money used to help continue funding a Safety Program within the Schools. A Safety policy should be added to this program regarding biological males in female bathrooms. Our young girls need to feel safe when they are at school! How scary for them to be in a vulnerable situation (bathroom) to only encounter this! As adults, we must stand up for them! So, what is the solution? Will a Safety policy be enough to rectify this situation? Can money be used to help solve this bathroom problem? Something definitely needs to be done!”
Kim Burger is another parent who emailed the school board.
“I am respectfully writing to request you take PROACTIVE measures to safeguard our sons and daughters as it relates to restroom usage at the high school,” Burger wrote. “There are numerous reports of trans students using their ‘preferred’ restroom at school. For the safety and respect for all our kids, please put an end to this. There are reports that many students won’t even use the restrooms all day for fear of running into a biological male in a girls [sic] restroom. Not to mention the increased possibility of sexual abuse that this practice opens up,” she said.
“The demand is simple … all students need to use the appropriate restroom based on their biological sex. Not the one they prefer to identify with or make up. Trans kids have every opportunity to express their preferences in their personal lives. But I don’t have to agree with it or subject my kids to it especially as it relates to bathroom use or sports at taxpayer funded schools! Please take this issue to heart and NOT turn a blind eye towards it. This is not an equal rights or discrimination issue. This is a SAFETY issue for our kids,” she said.
Burger’s email prompted a response from Board of Education Secretary Cindy Shaw.
“Thank you for taking the time to email the HCS Board of Education,” Shaw wrote. “Please know that we encourage students to report any inappropriate bathroom/facility use to the school principal immediately. This is the only way that administration can become aware of issues and ensure their accuracy.”
Shaw continued: “I have had many conversations with administration and Mr. [Superintendent Chuck] Hughes and I can tell you that what is being reported on social media by those not involved with our schools is not accurate. Any high school student who is using a bathroom facility that they are not authorized to use will face consequences. This has always been the case and how it will be handled moving forward. As a board member, I support our administration and the way that they are managing this complex issue,” she said.
Speaking in person at Monday night’s meeting was Ana Marie Yarber, a freshman at Hartland High School.
“I would first like to make it clear that I feel no hatred towards any person at my school,” Yarber began. “I believe that every student should be treated with kindness and compassion. There have been instances at the high school of students using the bathroom opposite of their own biological sex.”
Yarber related a story involving her older brother who last year encountered a female friend from childhood in the men’s bathroom after she had begun identifying as a male.
“I have also experienced this,” Yarber continued. “About a month ago I was walking into the bathroom to change my clothes for cross country practice at the same time as a person walked out who based on face and body structure I could tell was obviously a biological male,” she said.
“It scares me that had I gone into the bathroom just a minute earlier I would have been taking my clothes off in the presence of a person who I can only assume has male genitals. Just a couple of weeks later I was walking out of the bathroom stall when I noticed that same person waiting in line with the girls this is a problem that desperately needs a solution.”
Noting that current school boundaries are unclear, Yarber said one solution that was offered was to use a bathroom near the principal’s office.
“But this is simply not practical,” she said. “I can’t march across the school to use the office bathroom whenever I need to use it. This issue was not resolved when my brother spoke up about his experience and it has not been resolved when when parents have spoken out. It’s sad that I at 14 years old could have to come and speak at a meeting in order to protect my dignity and safety as well as that of my classmates,” she concluded.
Watch the meeting here (parent comments begin at about 28:00):