A Florida school district is going ahead with a new policy requiring students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex after a federal appeals court ruling last week.
The superintendent of Pasco County Schools, which sits just north of Tampa, announced the new policy Tuesday during a school board meeting. The rule would ban trans-identifying students from using the bathroom of the opposite biological sex and is expected to take effect in the next month.
“I realize this change in practice may not sit well with some students and some adults, but it is important to know that we as a district and as elected officials are required to abide by the laws of the state of Florida and those of the United States. This change in district practice and procedure does both of those,” Superintendent Kurt Browning said during the meeting.
Browning cited the December decision from the 11th Circuit federal appeals court in the case of a trans-identifying female student in the St. John’s area who was banned from using the boys bathroom at her school.
The court ruled that the school’s policy banning the student from the boys bathroom does not violate the Constitution or Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
“I’m going to do what I have always said I’ll do, which is follow the law. The 11th Circuit changed the law,” the superintendent said. “It would be disingenuous of us to use the St. John’s case for the last five years and not use the 11th Circuit case as the basis of our decision-making.”
Browning also said that accommodations will be made for trans-identifying students.
“I also want the board to be aware that any student wishing to use an alternative restroom will be able to seek an accommodation to use a private restroom at their school,” Browning said.
One trans-identifying student, a female senior, spoke at Tuesday’s school board meeting and said she has been using the boys bathroom for the last four years.
“I don’t think this policy is going to do any good for anyone,” the student said. “I’m probably not going to follow the rules, so come what will.”
In the fall, Pasco County Schools announced that the district will no longer use “safe spaces” or display “safe space” stickers.
The superintendent said the “safe spaces” were causing confusion for school staff, who were unsure whether a student’s presence in a designated “safe space” triggered a staffer’s legal duty to report a change in a student’s well-being to their parents. Florida’s new parental rights education law requires school staff to report changes in children’s well-being to parents. Another point of confusion was that students might mistakenly think a conversation in a “safe space” was confidential and would not be disclosed to their parents, Browning said.
The new bathroom policy at Pasco County Schools comes as debate is heating up across the country over trans-identifying students using the school bathroom of the opposite sex.
Districts in other states have announced similar rules about students using the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex. Meanwhile, parents in other areas have spoken out against school policies that allow students to use the bathroom of the opposite sex.