A male P.E. teacher is claiming that he was punished by school administrators for refusing to watch a transgendered, biologically female middle schooler change and shower with male classmates. He also claims he was forbidden to speak of the issue with parents or students.
The case has garnered the attention of Liberty Counsel, a law firm that provides pro bono representation “with a particular focus on religious liberty and other First Amendment issues.”
In a letter sent to school officials in late September, the Liberty Counsel explained the situation faced by the male gym teacher, Robert Oppedisano, and his female counterpart, Stephanie Christiansen.
The letter contends that, per the orders of school administrators at Chasco Middle School in Pasco County, Fla., teachers were required to allow a girl into the boys’ locker room, and were forbidden to speak about it:
Both of the P.E. teachers, Robert O. and Stephanie C., objected to administrators’ orders to allow the girl into the bathroom, with no forewarning of the boys, or their parents, so that the boys could take steps to protect their privacy. Administrators told them that informing the boys so they could take steps to protect their privacy would be “discriminatory” and subject them to discipline.
Robert also objected to administrators’ order that he continue to walk into and supervise the locker room, despite a girl potentially being nude or undressed in that area. The administrators told him that the girl in question had “every right to use the locker room,” including the right to disrobe in the open locker area, and shower in its open showers, where Robert is required to periodically walk in and supervise. Robert will not knowingly place himself in a position to observe a minor female in the nude or otherwise in a state of undress. Now, Robert has been told by administrators that he will be transferred to another school as discipline for “not doing [his] job in the locker room.
[On September 27], the girl was admitted to the boys locker room for the first time, and walked in, catching boys (literally) with their pants down, causing them embarrassment and concern by the fact that they had been observed changing by an obvious girl. Boys immediately came out of the locker room, and approached Stephanie and Robert, seeking assistance. The P.E. teachers were powerless to respond because administrators had placed a gag order on them and told them that they could not answer the boys on these questions. Today, boys were asking Robert why he is not supervising them. Again, he was not able to respond.
“I told them [Chasco administrators] I have an issue with it,” Stephanie Christensen told the Tampa Bay Times in an Oct. 25 interview. “Part of my concern is if students are allowed to do this, the other kids and their parents have a right to know. It’s their privacy, too.” (RELATED: Transgender Teen Sues Parents For Not Allowing Her Gender Reassignment Surgery)
In an Oct. 24 press release, Liberty Counsel expanded upon the issues surrounding the case. Specifically, it detailed the role of Pasco County district’s school psychologist Jackie Jackson-Dean, an LGBT liaison who is the self-proclaimed lead author of the “Best Practices Guide,” a list of guidelines adopted by the district without school board approval.
According to the guide, “transgender and gender nonconforming students have the right to use the locker room facility that matches their gender identity,” and that “students must be permitted to participate in physical education classes that are consistent with their gender identity.”
When a parent approaches a school administrator to complain about such policies, the guide advises them to respond by saying, “I can’t talk about individual students […] Is there something we can do to help you or your child better understand gender-related issues?”
The incident is the latest flashpoint in the continuing cultural battle over transgendered rights, specifically regarding children. (RELATED: UMass Amherst Chancellor Calls Proposed DHS Gender Definition ‘Odious’)