Students in Marion County, Fla., will have to use restrooms and facilities based on their birth sex rather than their gender identity after the school board approved a transgender bathroom ban.
The local Florida measure, which passed 4 to 1 on Tuesday, comes as localities and states across the country have considered and passed similar bans.
Transgender students shouldn’t be able to choose which restroom they can use, said school board member Carol Ely, the Ocala Star-Banner reported. “I thought about it and that’s reverse discrimination,” she said.
Some entertainers and companies announced that they wouldn’t do business in North Carolina after the state enacted a law that, among other things, limits individuals to using bathrooms conforming to the gender on their birth certificates. Last week, a federal court in Virginia ruled that a transgender student could sue his school district for discrimination after he was barred from using the boys’ restroom. The court wrote in its ruling that such policies should defer to the U.S. Education Department’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bars gender-based discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The Education Department has said that it believes forcing transgender students to use a bathroom not in line with their gender identity is discriminatory.
In Florida, the ACLU warned Marion County officials that its bathroom ban would violate Title IX “and constitutional equal-protection principles.”
“When transgender students are required to use separate facilities, it does not go unnoticed by other students,” Daniel Tilley, the LGBT rights staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida, wrote in a letter to the school board. “Being separated from other students in this way would be damaging to anyone, but it is especially harmful for transgender children.”
According to the measure, single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms designated for girls are restricted to people “who are biological females.” The same goes for facilities designated for boys and people “who are biological males.”
Students who want to use alternative facilities “shall always be offered comparable facilities, as required by law,” the measure states.
School board member Nancy Stacy described the federal appeals court ruling in Virginia as “another example of an overreaching federal government,” the Star-Banner reported.
The measure also states that transgender individuals are “not a protected class” under the school district’s policies.
A local parent appeared before the school board two weeks ago to complain that his son’s privacy rights were violated because he wasn’t comfortable using the same facilities as a transgender student, who was born female and now identifies as male, the Associated Press reported. The school district had been allowing transgender students to pick bathrooms for about two months.
Conservative legal group Liberty Counsel represented the parent, Harrell “Hal” Phillips and his son, who the organization described as “devout Christians who believe strongly in both biblical modesty and constitutional privacy.”
Phillips’s son was “extremely upset” that a transgender student was using the boys’ bathroom, the group wrote. “This was a place where he has a reasonable expectation that he will not encounter the opposite sex. This deeply violated his religious beliefs of personal modesty and his constitutional rights to privacy.”
Tilley of the ACLU wrote that the ban could put federal funding for the district at risk. He also wrote that transgender children “are at heightened risk of stress and victimization by other children and adults.”
“Prohibiting transgender students from accessing restrooms that correspond to the gender they live every day is both severely detrimental to those students and also prohibited by federal law,” he wrote.