Metro Weekly

High school survey asks if ‘queers’ should use bathrooms with ‘normal people’

Students at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School in Illinois were disciplined by the school district over the survey

A public restroom – Photo: Nikolai Nolan, via Wikimedia.

A small high school in southern Illinois has garnered national attention after a group of students circulated a survey asking peers whether they want “QUEER KIDS TO GO TO THE BATHROOM WITH US NORMAL PEOPLE,” the latest in a slew of attacks on LGBTQ students nationwide.

With the “Anti Queer Association” name as the header, the document that was distributed at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School reads, “This document is represented by the students of AJCHS. This is about all the QUEER Kids in this school.

“This is a vote for all the students of AJCHS, this is not public you do not have to put your name on it or anything like that all we need is a check YES or NO. This is an anonymous vote.  VOTE WISELY!!!”

The survey continues: “NO NAME JUST CHECK YES OR NO!!!!!!”, asking for the grade of the respondent.

The next lines read: “(YES) I WANT QUEERS TO GO IN THE BATHROOM. (NO) I DON’T WANT QUEER KIDS TO GO TO THE BATHROOM WITH US NORMAL PEOPLE,” leaving room for the respondent’s answer.

According to school superintendent Rob Wright, the administration became aware of the survey on Oct. 20 after a few copies were handed out and it was shared across social media, including in a local Facebook group.

He told NBC News that the number of students involved was “very limited” and that disciplinary measures were taken against them.

“I really can’t give any specific information regarding any individual students or what those measures were taken, but I can tell you that this type of harassment is taken very seriously by the district,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate it under any circumstances.”

Michael Coleman, a board member for Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center in nearby Carbondale, said he spoke with students who felt “very unsafe” and “that nothing was going to get done.”

“By us taking that stand, that initiative, they really feel like it’s not going to happen anymore,” he told WSPD-TV, referring to the center’s and parents’ efforts.

Coleman shared a message to those responsible for the survey, telling them to come to the center, which offers “a plethora of resources and training.”

“I like to tell people: If you don’t know something, learn it,” he said. “Don’t spew hate about it because you don’t understand something.”

According to Coleman, a parent cosigned with students to create the Anti-Queer Association, “basically trying to repeal” the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act, a law enacted in August to ensure that students in Illinois receive comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.

Since 2020, single-occupancy bathrooms in Illinois have been required to be deemed gender-neutral. And as of June, the Department of Justice holds that denying a student the right to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity constitutes a Title IX violation. Whether any Anne-Jonesboro students have been denied this right is unknown.

However, The Southern Illinoisan reports that on Oct. 18, two days before the survey was discovered, the school board met after several parents shared transphobic content regarding trans students using the correct bathrooms. One Anna-Jonesboro parent posted on Facebook that she was “about ready to pull the kids out of school.” 

Tara Bell, facilitator of Social Action for Southern Illinois, told the publication that parents were propagating the harmful myth that trans kids make school bathrooms unsafe for their peers when, in reality, “there have been no documented instances of violence, assault or bullying by transgender individuals in restrooms, either in schools or other public places.”

“But imagine what a student goes through daily; being forced to access a restroom or locker room based on their gender assigned at birth as opposed to the gender of their true self sets off a spiral of issues,” she said.

She continued: “The student will avoid eating or drinking all day, making participation and focus difficult. Overall grades can begin to slip. Students will sit out of physical education classes, facing penalties for non-participation.”

Last month, the Trevor Project found that 52 percent of the 34,000 LGBTQ middle and high schoolers surveyed reported having been bullied in person or online this year. Trans youths reported higher rates of bullying than their cisgender GLB peers — 61 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Twenty-nine percent of LGBTQ middle schoolers who were bullied attempted suicide, compared to 12 percent of those who said they were not bullied.

Wright told NBC News that counseling has always been and will remain available for students, along with private bathrooms in the school’s principal and nurses office.

He noted that adults “in the real world” are “having a hard time expressing their differences in an appropriate manner.”

“We have to start doing that with our students at this age, too, and know that everybody’s welcome and everybody deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” he said.

Read More:

Anti-LGBTQ Republicans sweep all three statewide races in Virginia, seize control of House of Delegates

Supreme Court declines to hear Catholic hospital’s appeal of transgender patient’s lawsuit

Baltimore Museum of Art unveils gender-neutral restrooms dedicated to John Waters

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!