Louisville, KY school votes to protect transgender rights

| March 9, 2017
transgender rights

J.M. Atherton High School. Image from Jefferson County Public Schools.

In a first-of-its-kind decision made in just 21 minutes, J.M. Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky put an end to an ongoing debate concerning the plight of transgender students. The school council took a stand by voting in favor of allowing transgender students to use the locker room and restroom of their gender identity.

“We have a responsibility to provide appropriate accommodations for transgender students,” said Thomas Aberli, principal of J.M Atherton High School. He added “this policy is something that really demonstrates our ability to respond to the needs of diverse students. Atherton was the best place for something like this to happen.”

A majority of the students as well as the parent community has embraced the decision.  Henry Brousseau, a transgender student who will be a junior at Louisville Collegiate School this fall, said he and his mother were paying attention to the outcome at Atherton.

However, the decision has not gone unopposed outside the school community. Resistance came from a Christian anti-LGBT organization calling the decision an encroachment of other students’ privacy. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said schools should instead give transgender students the option of using staff or unisex facilities, as many do.

The transgender rights movement in schools is gaining momentum across districts with parents, especially those of transgender students, increasingly looking for a congenial environment for their children. Students are also speaking up. Issac Barentt from Kansas High School was loud and clear about his expectations to be accepted as a boy rather than a girl.

The Department of Education’s recent guidance issued in April has accelerated the transgender rights cause in schools under Title IX. A proud Atherton alumni and director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington D.C., Harper Jean Tobin sees students and administrators standing up for transgender protections as an increasing trend, for better or for worse.

This year, 13 other states joined California in issuing a non-discrimination policy for the transgender students in school including the ability to use restrooms and  play on sports teams that match their expressed genders.  Numerous districts, from Salt Lake City and Kansas City to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Decatur, Georgia, have adopted similar protections.

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