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By Hilde Kate Lysiak
A public forum set up by the school board to hear the public’s concerns over transgender people using bathrooms showed a community divided.
Nearly one hundred people gathered at the Selinsgrove Middle School to voice their opinions about whether transgender people should be able to go into the boys or girls bathrooms at Selinsgrove schools. The room included many people who were both for and against the a new policy that would allow transgender people to use the bathroom they identify with.
“It seems like the change has been you are putting the comfort of a few over the comfort of a larger number of kids,” one former Selinsgrove elementary school employee told the board.
She believed that the previous rule allowing transgendered people to use the private bathroom located by the nurses office provided everyone a safe place. But that the new policy makes most students uncomfortable, according to the woman.
“Comfort and safety can be two different things. and I believe that (transgender people) can be comfortable if they have a bathroom that they know you can use any time and any place. In changing the place, you have given a the majority a place where they are no longer comfortable.”
The board said that it has three transgender students in the Selinsgrove School district.
But a parent of a transgender student contested the idea that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice should make any one uncomfortable.
“This practice that Selinsgrove has now implemented is used by hundreds and hundreds of schools, without incident and without difficulty,” the father told the board.
Alexa Wolfe, who identified herself as a transgendered woman, became emotional when speaking about the issue.
“My biggest concern tonight is that there are a lot of concerned parents out there who somehow believe in this myth that transgender people are somehow sexual deviants because of the restrooms or locker rooms that we use, but I want everyone to simply ask themselves what evidence is there towards that notion? When was the last time we heard a news story about a transgendered person attacking somebody in the bathroom for whatever reason. I don’t remember that at all. But, on the other side of things, there are statistics that show…transgendered people are more likely to be attacked or assaulted in the restroom.”
People applauded Wolfe, but things got heated when a woman from the school district who spoke afterwards referred to Wolfe as, “the boy who spoke from Bloomsburg, he had mentioned…”
“Girl! Girl!” people shouted back.But the woman continued speaking, asking the board to vote on their honest convictions, and “not on Title 9 Funding.”
The issue of transgender people using bathrooms became a big issue in Selinsgrove earlier this year after a letter was sent home to parents telling them there was a change in policy.
Roger W Sheesley, who agreed to represent the board, told concerned parents at the Nov 14th school board meeting that he was just trying to follow the rules set up by the Federal Government.
“The board did not make this policy or vote on it. Title 9 is what changed, not our position,” Sheesley told the board. “You can be upset about that but that is where this came from. This is what our administration was acting on. As a result of not following Title 9 we could lose funding.”
Sheesley added that lawsuits from private organizations are even a greater threat to us “than anything the government can do.”
“We are in a no -win position,” Sheesley said at the meeting. “We didn’t create this position, the federal government did.”
But a lawyer who spoke at the public forum claimed Sheesley was misreading Title 9.
After the meeting the board will talk to lawyers then vote on a policy for Transgender people.