Letter: Work individually with transgender students

To the editor:

To Superintendent Richard Arkanoff and Center Grove Community Schools board members:

Regardless of your opinion about the legality and the appropriate use or misuse of executive privilege, President Barack Obama’s recent guideline regarding the accommodation of transgenders has caused you to address a very emotionally-charged issue.

I am not without empathy for those people who struggle with personal gender identity, and I believe they should always be treated with respect. But as a former teacher and the grandmother of young teenage girls attending your schools, I am concerned about the potential consequences of possible actions you might take in an effort to accommodate the special needs of transgender students.

Before you choose which of the five responses you have been told are available to you, I urge you to consider carefully the answers to three questions:

What is the real problem you are trying to solve?

Except for the very specific role of males and females in procreation, our society has evolved to the point where young people have an unlimited choice of careers, interests and activities available without sexual discrimination. So, based upon comments by transgender students, it appears that their primary concern is embarrassment due to rude mean-spirited remarks from people who have not learned to respect those who may be different from them. The desire to be treated with respect is legitimate and should be validated.

What will be the possible practical consequences of your decision?

If the school chooses to convert all restrooms to single-stall, unisex facilities or to install designated unisex bathrooms, that would logically lead to a similar reconfiguration for locker rooms as well. These choices would likely create a plethora of negative results — including significant financial expense and concerns about the security and privacy of the entire student population.

How will your decision help solve the problem?

When an injury or injustice is brought to people’s attention, the immediate reaction is often to pass new laws and/or spend money to fix the problem. In reality, such over-reaction often creates more problems than it solves. In this case, the real problem is the mean-spirited bullies whose attitudes will not change regardless of how much money and effort is spent on restrooms and locker rooms. Their behavior needs to be changed, not the restrooms.

Therefore, I urge you to choose to work with transgender students individually to find the best solution for them. Also, please do not choose to comply with the federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education whose “guidelines” are not “law” and are likely to be challenged in court.

Thank you for your service for the benefit of all the students in the school system — a difficult but most important responsibility.

Marge Pauszek