Collier school board tackles transgender restroom issue

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 18:56:03-04

The Collier County School Board is deciding whether to move forward with plans to challenge the federal government's order on transgender restrooms, with millions of dollars in federal funding at stake. 

President Obama's "Dear Colleague" letter, saying that schools need to allow transgender students to use whichever restroom they identify with by gender - or risk losing federal education funds - has been criticized by some conservatives. 

A group called the Collier County Salt and Light Council rallied outside school district headquarters Tuesday prior to the school board's regular meeting, in an effort to urge board members to defy the President's directive.

"The 'Dear Colleague' letter from the Departments of Education and Justice is a bullying tactic, used by the federal government to circumvent state's rights regarding education," said Father Michael Orsi of the Salt and Light Council.

LGBT supporters rallied at school district headquarters at the same time, saying that legislation about public restrooms is unnecessary, especially where student dignity is concerned.

"We already have rules and laws that protect all of the students," said Rev. Stephanie Burns of the New Day Metropolitan Community Church. "A simple act of trying to marginalize transgender students is only going to hurt transgender students, and it will not serve to protect anyone."

Collier school board member Erika Donalds said she wants the board to defy the "Dear Colleague" letter. Attorney Mike Chionopoulos of Fort Myers said defying the directive shouldn't cost the district any money.

"The law as it currently sits, would not, in my opinion, be discriminatory," Chionopoulos said.