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Bathroom Bigotry Just Stopped a Transgender Kid From Participating in Active Shooter Drill


Welp, it seems that the “worried parents,” who are, “terrified that their daughters will end up in a bathroom with a biological man,” have made such a mess of things that a middle-schooler in Virginia was just told that she doesn’t deserve to be kept safe from an active shooter. The girl found herself in the mother of all 2018 quandries: does she report to the boys’ or the girls’ locker room during a shelter drill?

As the drill progressed, teachers were reportedly debating what would be “appropriate” treatment of the girl. The outcome, according to a Facebook post by LGBTQ rights group Equality Stafford:

During this debate, she was instructed to sit in the gym with a teacher until the drill was complete, away from her peers and identified as different. After some additional debate, she was made to sit in the locker room hall way, by the door away from her peers.

That seems pretty damn far from “appropriate” to me.

I assume the teachers would have liked to have protected this girl, but they just didn’t know how, what with the risk of bathroom-related danger so grossly outweighing the risk of active shooters. Please. Spare me. Although teachers’ confusion and zeal to cover their own asses is hardly surprising in today’s climate of recasting victims as bullies and vice versa, their utter lack of common sense is pretty galling. Still, the blame for this mess reaches far beyond the faculty actually present during this drill – from the bathroom bigots themselves to the politicians who have risen to power aboard the Transphobic Express, and directly to the desks of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.

For a quick catch-up, let’s remember where we are on all this bathroom business.

Gavin Grimm is a teenage transgender boy who brought a case up to SCOTUS based on Title IX (the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination); Grimm argued that, as the Obama administration had directed, Title IX requires schools to permit transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identities.

When Betsy came to town, the DOE had reversed the Obama guidelines on gender discrimination, creating a legal standard for public schools that essentially amounted to “do whatever you want, even if that means totally isolating transgender children.” For added fun, she also decided that under her roof, the DOE will no longer even investigate claims of discrimination for transgender students based on bathroom usage.

Although the changes in policy were politically and socially significant, it didn’t legally change much. The question of whether Title IX requires deference to gender identity is one of statutory interpretation – and that job belongs to the judiciary alone. SCOTUS has thus far declined to answer that difficult question, but the Grimm case just won at the district level this past May, and is likely headed back to SCOTUS. Now that LGBT hero Justice Anthony Kennedy has been replaced with villain-to-sexual-fairness Brett Kavanaugh, this isn’t likely to get sorted out any time soon.

The absurd confusion in this Virginia middle school underscores the need for a national rule on gender identity in schools. While school officials scratched their heads pondering how to protect this young girl, their decision morphed into whether to protect her. In the end, their confusion amounted to placing the child at risk – at least insofar as we’re talking about physical safety. If we’re to consider the broader implications, this girl was actually ostracized to such a degree that any tort lawyer with a pulse would thank the gods of contingency fees to have her as a client.

As Equality Stafford stated plainly, “During an event that prepares children to survive an attack by actual assailants, she was treated as if she was so much of a danger to peers that she was left exposed and vulnerable.”

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. For now, Equality Stafford is encouraging concerned citizens to attend the next school board meeting. Equality Stafford’s Facebook page lists it as existing in Stafford County, Virginia—a county whose motto boasts that it was “George Washington’s Boyhood Home.” On the county’s homepage, it proudly proclaims:

Stafford County would like to express our commitment to providing a welcoming, inclusive, and safe community for all residents and visitors. We value an environment of unity, trust and understanding. We honor our history and respect and protect the right to live free from discrimination.

Perhaps the school officials haven’t visited the website in a while.

[Image via MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos