Gwinnett County school district clarifies bathroom policy

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Community members continue to express concerns over the state's largest school system's plan to provide gender-neutral restrooms to transgender students.

A federal directive last week told school systems to allow transgender students to use restrooms that matched their gender identities. The directive also implied that school systems could lose federal funding for failing to comply.

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Gwinnett County Public Schools issued a statement on its website Sunday. In it, the system said it would continue to provide sex-designated restrooms but would offer gender-neutral facilities to students who didn't want to use restrooms that matched their biological sex.

Tea Party activist and Gwinnett County citizen David Hancock addressed the Gwinnett County School Board Thursday. He said, if schools didn't have to use federal funding, then they wouldn't have to follow federal guidelines so closely.

In a separate interview with FOX 5, Hancock said he wished the school system had taken a different stance on the issue.

“I wanted them to say, 'no, we have sexual identity that is pretty well-defined. There is born female and born male. You have a male and female restroom,’” Hancock said. "...the long-term solution is move away from federal funds. The less federal funds you take, the less you are beholden to them."

Sloan Roach, executive director of communication for the school district, said the school will not have to make changes to provide the gender-neutral facilities. In fact, she said, generally, schools have single-stall, faculty restrooms that could be used.

“We're not building new restrooms. They are in our schools and a student could use those if they wish,” Sloan said.

She echoed the district's position that the federal directive is an “overreach.”

“The practice we use is a fair practice and one that is based on common sense,” she said. “It is also one that is based on local decisions.”

Tara Borelli, an attorney for Lambda Legal, attended the board meeting. She said school districts should follow the federal guidance.

“We think it's so important for schools to stand on the side of fairness and treat all students equally by respecting their gender identities and allowing them to use facilities in accordance to their gender identity,” Borelli said.

“When you start separating trans-students out into different spaces, it marks them as unequal.”