School reaction: transgender restroom directive

Posted at 6:28 PM, May 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-13 18:28:26-04

Southwest Florida schools reacted Friday to a divisive decision by the federal government, which requires every school in the nation to let transgender students use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

"It's the definition of intrusive," said Collier County school board member Erika Donalds. "It flies in the face local control in education, which, as school board members, we need to continue to fight for."

Donalds said she and other board members met Thursday to discuss the transgender restroom issue in schools, and decided that they should create a policy as a board.

"Not knowing that hours later, the President himself would say he would be the one to decide how local school districts are going to handle this issue," Donalds said. "I absolutely disagree with that."

"Once the White House and the government gets involved in it, we have to follow their guidelines," said Mike Riley of Charlotte County Public Schools. 

Riley said his district will do whatever it takes to follow the White House's directive.

"If you're not in the guidelines, you open yourself up for a violation of civil rights for these students, and losing funds from the federal government," Riley said.

He added that while it could mean modifying facilities, most Charlotte County schools have unisex bathrooms. He said they've only had 4 or 5 students come forward as transgender, all within the past year.

"What we've done at that time is we've met with them and the parents to find out, what can we do to met your needs that won't violate someone else's rights," Riley said.

Fox 4 also reached out to representatives for Lee and Collier County Public Schools. Both districts say that they are reviewing the President's directive regarding transgender restroom policy in schools, but that they have already been working with transgender students and their parents to see that their needs are met.