OPINION: After Bathroom Assault, Georgia School Chooses Transgender Ideology Over Safety

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Jane Robbins Senior Fellow, American Principles in Action
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Pascha Thomas knows what utter helplessness feels like. When her daughter, a kindergartner in Georgia’s City Schools of Decatur (CSD), was sexually assaulted in a school restroom last year, Thomas realized the episode was entirely preventable.

But CSD administrators shut down her complaints and refused to ensure this won’t happen again. Thomas’s story should disturb any parent whose children attend schools that value ideology over student privacy and safety.

In July 2016, to accommodate “transgender” students, CSD Superintendent David Dude quietly mandated that all school facilities and functions — restrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, overnight accommodations on field trips — would now be open to students based on the sex they identify with, not their biological sex.

(This policy is more radical than even the Obama-era “guidance” on this issue, which at least acknowledged that girls might not be the best choice for left tackle.) Dude neither informed parents nor obtained approval from the school board.

Many CSD parents learned of the stealth policy months later through a post on Dude’s personal Facebook page. After relentlessly advocating for their own children’s rights to privacy and security, parents finally prevailed on the school board to address the issue at a meeting in October 2017.

But board members made it clear at the meeting that they were interested only in accommodating gender-confused students, not in protecting others. The radical policy remained the same.

In the girls’ restroom at Oakhurst Elementary School about a month later, Thomas’s daughter was violated by a boy whom the school apparently allowed to be there. School administrators later claimed under Thomas’s questioning that federal law required them to open girls’ private spaces to boys who identify as girls.

(CSD may now be denying the policy is implicated, by denying the boy is transgender. If that’s true, CSD is necessarily admitting that any boy, transgender or not, is allowed into girls’ private spaces. This would be even worse than the Dude policy and is expressly not required by federal law.)

Alarming though this assault was, equally troubling has been the response of CSD administrators.

According to the Thomases’ attorney, Vernadette Broyles, CSD: 1) refused to transfer the boy out of the victim’s classroom, 2) declined to modify its policy so that future incidents could be prevented, 3) refused to assure Thomas that the boy would be barred from the girls’ restroom when her daughter was present and, astoundingly, 4) reported Thomas to the Department of Family and Children’s Services as somehow having been responsible for the incident.

Not surprisingly, Thomas has moved her daughter to a different school. 

The remarkable aspect of this episode – beyond the utter predictability that the policy would harm some students – is the coldness and disdain directed toward Pascha Thomas and her child.

CSD administrators barely even expressed concern, much less took any action to address the situation. Superintendent Dude refused even to meet with Thomas. Apparently, he believes the case has been handled properly.

Nor is it likely the school board will fairly consider the concerns of Thomas and other parents about their children’s privacy and safety.

At the October 2017 meeting, the board carefully chose the “expert” witnesses so that only one side would be presented. It ignored the warning of a former Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles chairman that the Dude policy would endanger girls by allowing boys into their private spaces. It disregarded the testimony of a pediatric endocrinologist about the hugely unsettled science regarding gender dysphoria, and his offer to help craft a policy that would treat all students respectfully.

But the Thomas family may get help from another source. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has now opened an investigation of the CSD policy. Federal law protects all students from being subjected to a “hostile environment” because of their sex, and for this little girl, the environment was downright dangerous.

No one claims that gender-confused boys are particularly likely to assault girls in restrooms. But the very presence of biological males in such private spaces can create a hostile environment — especially for girls who have previously suffered sexual assault. And non-transgender predators can easily take advantage of a policy that throws open the doors of restrooms, locker rooms, and bedrooms to all comers.

Dude has refused to address this case, but now he can explain to federal investigators why Pascha Thomas and her daughter should just get over it. His decision to steamroll parents on such a highly charged issue may have consequences he never imagined.

Jane Robbins is an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Project. She lives and works in Tucker, Georgia.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.