Last night the Candia, NH School Board voted to pass the new transgender bathroom policy as proposed by the NH School Boards Association.

A large crowd of parents packed the gym to express their views on the proposed policy.  One parent brought a petition with over 300 signatures opposing the policy but that did not deter 4 of the 5 school board members from passing the new policy.

So why with so much opposition to a new bathroom policy would 4 of the 5 board members still support the policy?  It’s important to first look at “WHY” a policy is even being considered in Candia or any other NH town.

The federal government has been pushing, threatening, bribing and using any other coercive measure to get schools to change their policies on bathrooms from one that is based on biological sex to one that is based on the way a student identifies themselves.

It was interesting to hear from a New Hampshire State Representative last night who reminded the audience that just a few short years ago, all of the New Hampshire Senators voted against the “bathroom bill,” including then New Hampshire Senator, Maggie Hassan.

The public back then, and parents today are expressing a natural reaction to allowing children of the opposite biological sex to share bathrooms, locker rooms and even hotel rooms on field trips.   They don’t feel comfortable.  Asking girls to repress a natural feeling of modesty has many parents concerned.

The Candia residents who opposed the policy spoke eloquently last night and made sure that everyone knew that they cared, loved, respected and supported all students in the district.  Transgendered students included.  However they recognize a child’s right to privacy and their natural instinct towards modesty.

They did not want any child harassed, bullied or made to feel unwelcome in the school but the policy was not considerate of all children and they wanted something different.

There were a few parents that supported the policy as written.  One parent who identified herself in a same-sex relationship said she lived in fear based on what she heard in the room.  However what we heard from parents was how much they loved the community and the students.  Her comment was met with some disgruntling in the crowd.

How can someone listen to parent after parent get up and speak with compassion and love then be accused of instilling fear in the community?

Gordon Graham, the attorney for the district recommended the school adopt the policy as written but made it clear there was no mandate or requirement to do so.

Other districts like Auburn and Hooksett recently voted to table the policy rather than allow themselves to be bullied by the feds into adopting a policy parents opposed.

Graham went through the various laws that were currently on the books and how the feds had interpreted some of them.  He continually cited the Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Justice Department,  the ones who are taking a 40 year old Title IX federal statute and re-interpreting it in order to control what should be local decisions on bathroom policies.

How could the Feds punish schools for exercising  local control in education?
By THREATENING to withhold federal funding.  That’s how things work now.  Some call it a tyrannical act, others call it federal coercion.  Whatever the definition is now, it will take board members and elected representatives to stand up against the overreach by the federal government, to maintain local control in their schools.

We did hear how parents in Palatine, Il are fighting back.  They recently filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education after their decision to allow a transgendered student to access the locker room:
“In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, the group contends that the actions of the Department of Education and Palatine-based Township High School District 211 “trample students’ privacy” rights and create an “intimidating and hostile environment” for students who share the locker rooms and restrooms with the transgender student.
“Students have an expectation of privacy in restrooms and locker rooms, and that expectation is violated when a school puts the opposite-sex student in those kinds of private and intimate facilities,” said Jeremy Tedesco, attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious legal advocacy group representing the plaintiffs.
The group also asserts that the Department of Education’s inclusion of gender identity under Title IX, which aims to protect against discrimination based on sex, is unlawful.”

It is important to note that it is the federal education “authorities” who have determined what is unlawful under the provisions of Title IX and as the attorney for Candia pointed out, that can change.  How can that change?  It could change with a new administration reinstating the former interpretation.  In other words this is more of a political battle than one based on individual rights or discrimination.

In this new policy one Candia parent mentioned his concern with Section 3 Paragraph A where it says,
School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender nonconforming presentation to others, including PARENTS or other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

He openly objected to the wording that seeks to bar parents from information on their own children.  This policy is not only a threat to the privacy of students in Candia, it’s openly hostile to parents.

Another parent brought up how disabled students use single sex bathrooms and how that wasn’t considered discriminatory.  This would address the needs of the transgendered student who did not want to use the bathroom of their biological sex.

A middle school teacher probably summed it up best when she highlighted three problems with the proposed policy:
1) Peer pressure.
2) Coping Skills.
3) Monitoring of the policy.
She talked about how some boys who will use this policy to gain access to the girls restroom.  In other words, she was going to address some of the pranks and goofy things kids do at that age.  She said it wasn’t a matter of “will it happen”, but “when it’s going to happen.”

It would be nice to think kids don’t manipulate and goof off at this age, but working with them day after day, she was well aware of what kids that age act like.

The attorney tried to reassure parents by pointing to the policy that says a student can only access these facilities based on the language in paragraph F,
In most cases, transgender students should have access to the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity consistently asserted at school.”

In other words, a boy claiming to be a girl one day in order to pull off a prank and step inside a girls locker room does not meet the terms of the policy.  However “consistently” is not defined.  Does that mean a boy who identifies as a girl for a day? A week? A month? A year?  What is considered consistent? I suspect a boy pulling off a prank will claim he’s been consistent in his mind.  If he is disciplined, and the policy is not defined in those terms, would this then open the school up to a potential lawsuit?

The attorney also pointed to a provision in section E in order to address the concerns by parents who argued that their children would feel uncomfortable with children of the opposite biological sex in their restroom.  Section E says,
Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided access to a single stall restroom, but no student shall be required to use such a restroom.”  But as you can see from a female student in Palatine, “One student who opted to use the privacy stall said she was called “transphobic” and “homophobic,” according to the lawsuit, which stated that she now wears her gym clothes under her school clothes to avoid changing in the locker room.”

Her natural right to privacy has not only been infringed upon, she has now become the victim of bullying and harassment.

Maybe that’s why so many women and girls feel that these policies and pressure by the federal government is a direct attack on them.
Thomas More Society attorney Jocelyn Floyd called the policy a “setback” for women’s rights….
“To impose such a rule on still-developing teenage girls — already struggling with puberty’s changes on their bodies and social pressures to look a certain way — undermines their dignity and tells them that their rights don’t matter,” Floyd said.”  

Asking girls to suppress their natural instincts of modesty and privacy sends a dangerous message.  Should the federal government and bureaucrats break down a natural self-protection instinct that many young girls and women have?  Should we be telling our daughters to ignore that little voice in their head that helps us identify when we are in actual danger?  And telling us to ignore that little voice over and over again?

As a mother and a female, we should support our young girls and their natural instincts for modesty, privacy and self-protection. That’s why rape survivors have begun speaking out against these kinds of policies.  They know the value of those natural instincts women and girls have and they do not want them compromised.

They also know that these policies put us in danger.  Grooming young girls to suppress their natural instincts for privacy and modesty at an early age can have a long term impact on them when they are older.  And as the author describes, “Why would people knowingly invite further exploitation by creating policies with no safeguards in place to protect them from injury? With zero screening options to ensure that biological males who enter locker rooms actually identify as female, how could a woman be sure the person staring at her wasn’t exploiting her? Why is it okay to make her wonder?……..
There’s no way to make everyone happy in the situation of transgender locker room use. So the priority ought to be finding a way to keep everyone safe.”

Parents in Candia stood up and asked many questions about the new policy.  Some were answered, some were not.  One mom explained this policy to her 8 year old son who she said had more compassion than the parents in the room who objected to the policy.  But as many of us could see, those who objected to the policy were considering the needs and rights of all students.

A local pastor objected to the policy and while speaking in terms of his religious beliefs, a couple of people behind me who supported the policy, sneered at him.  It begs the question, where’s the tolerance for his views?

Matthew Woodrow was the dissenting vote on the Candia School Board.  He suggested they put the brakes on the policy for now and table it.  It is an optional policy and there were issues that hadn’t been worked through as a board. Even the NHSBA said it was an optional policy and a template policy. Rarely do districts adopt what they put out and school boards are not required to adopt the policy as written.

This is true, parents elect board members to use their own judgement and draft policies that reflect the views of the community members, not cave to pressure by the federal bureaucrats pushing a controversial political agenda.

In the end the board passed the policy as written.  No changes were made to the proposed policy.
The roll call vote was:
Kim Royer: YES
Matthew Woodrow: NO
Rebecca Cronk: YES
Karyn Yeatman: YES
Nicole LaFlamme (Chair): YES

The vast majority in the room opposed the policy as written.  Over 300 signatures opposed the policy  but four board members chose to vote against those Candia parents.

This policy can be reversed by electing new board members in Candia.  If parents do not feel they were adequately represented, it’s important to consider running and electing new board members who are committed to overturning this policy.

In the end, it was good to see a community thoughtfully engaging in the democratic process where their schools and children are concerned.  Parents spoke with respect for ALL of the students, love for the community and school personnel.  This should happen in every community but never because the heavy hand of the federal government is pushing policies on local schools.

I don’t believe this new policy is what the parents in Candia want for their school and I’m afraid the coercive measures divided this community and that’s unfortunate.  If there was a problem that needed to be addressed, I believe these parents could have worked it out and come up with a good policy.  But when the federal government uses coercive measures to push a political agenda this is the harsh reality parents now face in their little communities.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]