Georgia School District Reverses Trans Protections After Threats

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"You Know," Peter Griffin. CC0 Public Domain

Pickens County School Board in Georgia just reversed its policy protecting transgender students after members of the board, students and parents were all targeted with threats of violence. Their press release cited “death threats, student harassment and vandalism of school property”  as the reasoning behind reversing protections and violating the rights of transgender students.

The release added, “The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the District has concerns that it may not be able to meet these recently increased demands.”

Back Story

CNN reported on the policy reversal:

The policy had allowed transgender students to use restrooms that aligned with their gender identity instead of a single-stall, gender-neutral bathroom, according to CNN affiliate WSB. The board voted to reverse the policy in an emergency meeting called by Superintendent Carlton Wilson, WSB reported.

The decision to adopt the policy arose from their compliance with Adams vs. St. John’s County– a federal court ruling in nearby Florida sharing the same federal district.

In Adams, Bush-appointed US District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan ruled that Drew Adams – a transgender boy attending a school in St. Johns County, Florida – was unlawfully denied access to the boys’ restroom. The ruling concluded the school district’s policy of targeting transgender students for differential treatment violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause as well as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Pickens attempted to proactively comply with the decision despite an appeal filed by St. John’s County due to be heard later this year.

Here’s local coverage of the policy rollback and its possible repercussions:

Just the Facts

While parents at the packed school board meeting regurgitated urban legends about transgender predators sexually assaulting cisgender bathroom patrons, the truth doesn’t quite support their narrative.

In the decades since transgender bathroom and public accommodation protections began appearing in codified local and state laws, no instances have ever been documented of a transgender person taking advantage of a trans-inclusive policy to assault someone in a gender-segregated setting. The only unlawful behavior that has ever resulted from trans-inclusive policies, in fact, has been the result of cisgender – mostly male – right-wing provocateurs following women into bathrooms proclaiming the law protects their right to enter whatever bathroom they want to assault people (which is incorrect).

Trans-inclusive laws do not legalize assault, nor do they provide a defense for sexual predators who assault people in bathrooms. They do not make it “easier” for predators to enter restrooms as invisible barriers do not exist in areas lacking transgender protections keeping these predators at bay. The only thing trans-inclusive public accommodation laws do is provide a shred of decency – as well as privacy – to transgender people as they attempt to live their lives authentically.

A group that does regularly experience both harassment and violence, however, is the transgender community – particularly transgender students in schools.

Pickens acknowledged a good portion of the threats directed at the school over the transgender inclusive policy actually targeted transgender students with threats of violence – a predictable phenomenon backed by data from other school districts with similar protections. People noted:

Superintendent Carlton Wilson tells PEOPLE that the mood within the district remains “somewhat torn,” as the issue is one “that people have strong feelings on on both sides.”

He says that the threats, which included graffiti, did not target any specific students, but transgender students as a group. He did, however, note that members of his staff, including the assistant superintendent and a board member, had been specifically targeted, and that the sheriff’s office is investigating.

For the moment, one thing is certain: the Pickens County School Board demonstrated unequivocally this week that right-wing extremist threats of violence work when they seek to curtail protections for marginalized populations. Much like the mantra that you shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, you shouldn’t give in to the demands of a violent mob seeking to take away the rights of an already targeted, harassed and frequently murdered group of people.

It sends them a message that threats of violence work.

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Originally posted on Peacock Panache. Re-posted with permission.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations.

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