The fight against trans rights and bathroom access led by the religious right and their TERF allies continues, this time in Georgia, where a school district has reversed a newly adopted trans-inclusive bathroom policy after people made death threats and harassed students.
The Pickens County School District, which previously had a policy allowing students to use a single-stall private bathroom meant for faculty members, made the policy change this year after a trans student asked, simply enough, that they be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender. The school agreed. In addition to basic human decency, Superintendent Carlton Wilson has also said that the change was made in response to a federal court ruling in favor of a Florida student who had sued in order to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender, which if upheld would also apply to Georgia schools.
But the school district’s decision has brought out all the bigots, and in response, the district has reverted back to its previous policy. In a statement released on Wednesday, Pickens County School District officials wrote that “school board members, staff, and students have been threatened” and that “there have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property.”
Wilson told WSB-TV that he and the school board made the decision to rescind the policy due to the death threats he received, which largely, as we’ve seen before, came from parents. “One of them said, ‘You know, situations like this brings out crazy people from both sides and sometimes people die,’” Wilson said. He added that people had also vandalized the girls bathroom at the high school, and that a 16-year-old student had made threats on social media. (According to a press release from the district, the “post included a photograph that was taken of students in a classroom and software was used to create the appearance two handguns were pointed at the students. The comment made and shared referred to increasing a kill ratio.”)
That bigotry was on display at a special town hall held this past Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when hundreds of parents, students, and former students packed into the Pickens County High School auditorium for a meeting on the new policy.
Many in attendance that night supported the trans-inclusive policy, like Kayla Hollyfield, a former Pickens County High School student. “You should be able to use any restroom that you want to use,” Hollyfield said, to cheers and applause. She added, “This is not about left or right. This is not a public agenda. This is about humanity and it’s about equal rights.”
But those opposed to allowing trans students to use the bathroom of their choice used the typical bigoted arguments to argue against bathroom access. Nathan Barfield, a parent of a student at the high school, called the policy a “political stunt to gain attention” and added that his son is afraid to “say anything for fear that he is going to be labeled a bully.” (Correct! He would be a bully!) Barfield continued, “I would never in my life use a restroom in which a female is in. No person’s rights are more important than anyone else.” According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, people shouted “Amen!” in response.
The anti-LGBTQ and generally very fucked up Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, of course, has applauded the decision by the school board to reverse its trans-inclusive policy. But the school district superintendent is clearly unhappy with the reversal. “They’re kids. They are all kids and none deserved to be treated the way some of them have been treated,” Wilson told WSB-TV.
All of this points to the difficulties for trans students in pursuing basic rights like bathroom access, as the Trump administration has actively advanced its anti-trans agenda and rolled back basic protections for students. In 2017, the Supreme Court declined to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, in which he sued his school board in order to use the bathroom matching his gender. And in 2018, after Betsy DeVos’s Education Department rescinded an Obama-era guidance calling for schools to allow trans students to use the bathroom of their choice, the department confirmed that they will no longer take up complaints from trans students who have been prevented from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender. It’s now largely up to local school districts to decide whether students will have extremely basic rights, and as the case of Pickens County School District shows, trans students too often will be left out.