Pickens County Reverses Course On Transgender Bathroom Policy

Oct 16, 2019

The Pickens County school board has reversed course on its decision allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

In a message released Wednesday, the school board cited safety concerns as a driving force for the change.


“There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property,” a statement from the school board said. “The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students.”

But there are some concerns that the school district won’t “be able to meet these recently increased demands.”

As a result, the board is resorting to procedures that were in place at the start of the school year. But officials said they are working with law enforcement and other safety professionals to address concerns.

On Monday, the school board held what was described as a tense meeting with hundreds of stakeholders in the district.

In a statement released ahead of the meeting, the board admitted it had “not developed policies on transgender students.”

Most of the concerns leading up to the meeting were about the safety of students at the school and the fear that people would try to take advantage of the policy.

Chanel Haley, with Georgia Equality, said for the people who have that concern, she has a challenge for them.

"I want people to think about when they use the restroom," Haley said. "What is their thought when they're going in there? Are they going in there thinking about what genitalia somebody has?  What the person's doing in the stall next to them?"

She said if cisgender people aren't thinking about that, then why is their the belief that transgender people are? 

Officials also announced at the time that they were meeting with an architect to “develop a redesign of our restroom facilities.”  Single stall restrooms are available in schools and transgender students can use gender-neutral or staff restrooms.

But Haley said that shouldn't be the only solution.

"What we're talking about is separate but equal," Haley said. "You're talking about segregation. You're talking about telling a person because they are different that they need to use a separate restroom and that makes us all more comfortable."

The school board said it was implementing the decision that came out of Adams v. St. John’s County School District. In that case, a judge ruled prohibiting students from using a bathroom with which they identified violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The school district has appealed that decision and arguments are expected later this year.

Pickens County has asked their stakeholders for “patience and discretion until these matters can be resolved.”