Metro Weekly

Missouri schools navigate transgender restroom policies

Policies still prohibit trans students from using facilities consistent with their gender identity

Marionville High School (Marionville R-9 School District, via Facebook).
Marionville High School (via Facebook).

A number of Missouri schools are adopting policies to deal with transgender students, but will require those students to use either a gender neutral bathroom or the bathroom of their biological sex at birth.

Most recently, the Marionville School District, in Southwest Missouri, adopted that exact policy, reports the Springfield News-Leader. The policies have also been adopted in other rural Missouri towns, including Fair Grove, Stockton, El Dorado Springs and Bernie in recent months.

Under the policy, students must either use a gender-neutral bathroom or a bathroom designed for their biological sex. Those who participate in physical education or after-school activities are expected to use the locker rooms that comport with their biological gender. As far as physical education, transgender students also have the option of taking an alternative class that doesn’t require them to change clothes or shower.

However, the policy also says that it “does not anticipate every situation that might occur with respect to transgender students,” and allows for each situation to be reviewed on a “case-by-case basis.”

Besides the restroom policy — which LGBT advocates argue is discriminatory — Marionville has adopted other administrative policies that could be seen as pro-transgender. Those policies will allow students to change their name once every school year, use whatever pronoun they prefer, and dress according to their gender identity, so long as their attire conforms to school dress codes.

Marionville superintendent Larry Brown told the News-Leader that the school board made the decision to adopt its new policies based on recommendations from the school’s insurance company and its attorney, Tom Mickles. Mickles is affiliated with the Missouri Consultants for Education (MCE), one of two organizations that craft and recommend certain policies that Missouri schools may adopt.

Mickles said that MCE’s policy model was created specifically to counter recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that would allow transgender students to use the locker room consistent with their gender identity. Earlier this month, the Department of Education ruled that an Illinois high school had engaged in sex discrimination against a transgender female student by not allowing her to use the locker room consistent with her gender identity.

“Female students have a well-developed legal right to be secure in their body integrity,” Mickles said. “They have the right not to be naked in front of a male. We are going to provide alternatives, but showering with them is not one of the options.”


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