Francis Howell School District considers bathroom policy affecting transgender students
The Francis Howell School District’s Board of Education is considering a new bathroom and locker room policy that would require students to use restrooms based on their sex assigned at birth.
At a packed board meeting in O’Fallon, Missouri, on Thursday night, transgender students and their families and allies held signs, waved flags and told the board its proposed policy is discriminatory.
Board member Jane Puszkar introduced the policy Thursday. At the board’s September meeting, she spoke about the need for a policy.
“If you are a parent or guardian of a young lady and think letting a young man in the restroom the same time as your daughter is extremely inappropriate, I know the vast majority of people in the district would agree with this,” Puszkar said.
The policy is called “Privacy in Locker Rooms and Rest Rooms.” It includes multiple rules, including restrictions against taking photos of people in bathrooms and locker rooms. While requiring at least one “single use” facility per school, the policy also requires the district to separate bathrooms by sex and says students can only use those bathrooms based on the marker on their birth certificate, or their sex assigned at birth.
Before the meeting began, people opposed to the policy held signs and wore shirts to support transgender rights in the district. Francis Howell High School junior Levi Hormuth said he hoped speaking to the board would help members see how this policy would affect his safety at school.
“It makes my blood boil,” Hormuth said. “It's not their responsibility. These are my decisions. And for people that have never been in my body, in my shoes, it's not their choice.”
Missouri lawmakers recently passed a law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. Hormuth said this policy has left him to seek care out of state. His family has also talked about moving to a more accepting place.
During the Francis Howell meeting, student Alexander Collins told the board that he had experienced an assault in a bathroom at school and that the assailant was cisgender.
“You're scared of [cisgender] people who you believe are pretending to be trans to go into other bathrooms,” Collins said. “You aren't scared of us. We're not your enemy. You shouldn't be scared of us. We are minors. We are kids. We're just here trying to graduate.”
Puszkar was elected earlier this year and was one of three candidates endorsed by Francis Howell Families, a political action committee that supports the proposal. On its website, the PAC wrote about the policy, “we are impressed with how well-thought-out and comprehensive it is. It restores sanity and safety – and removes uncertainty – for students, staff, and parents on the use of locker rooms and restrooms.”
The proposal includes a section saying, “only toilets and urinals shall be used to discharge human waste.” In the same statement from Francis Howell Families, the group writes of this section, “in other words, no cat litter-boxes for staff to clean up.” This is referencing a false but pervasive urban legend that schools are providing litter boxes for students who identify as cats.
Supporters said the board showed leadership and courage by introducing the policy. One patron said the potential rule “defends the privacy and safety of everyone else who abides by the biological sex on their birth certificate.”
The Francis Howell school board plans to vote on the policy at its November meeting.