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Parents Lash Out After Georgia Schools Add Trans-Inclusive Policy

Pickens County school board meeting

The superintendent of Pickens County has put an inclusive policy -- over which he received death threats -- on hold, but many local residents remain outraged.

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A school district in Georgia has backtracked on a transgender-inclusive restroom policy recently announced by its superintendent, but that didn't keep hundreds of angry parents from voicing objections at a special school board meeting Monday night.

Carlton Wilson, superintendent for the School District of Pickens County, about an hour north of Atlanta, had announced that he'd OK'd allowing a trans student to use the restroom designated for the gender with which the student identifies, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Previously, the school district had required trans students to use single-stall restrooms.

But Wilson, who said he has received death threats over the matter, later put the decision on hold. He had mistakenly thought the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Georgia and neighboring states, had ruled on restroom access. Actually, the appeals court has yet to hear the restroom case, which involves a trans student from Florida. A district court last year ruled that the student, Drew Adams, could use the boys' restroom at his school, but that ruling has been appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, which hasn't scheduled a hearing.

About 900 people packed the Pickens County High School auditorium Monday night for the special meeting of the district's board of trustees. Attendees delivered a mix of anti-trans and trans-supportive comments.

"This is a bad decision," said Steve Lowe, who opposes trans students' access to restrooms for the gender with which they identify, according to Atlanta TV station WAGA. "We've opened a Pandora's box, and we won't be able to shut it."

"When do the rights of transgenders end and the rights of son and daughter begin?" said another attendee, Ricky Storks.

Some raised the possibility of trans students -- or those pretending to be trans -- endangering girls and women in restrooms, an argument that isn't grounded in fact.

"I would never in my life use a restroom in which a female is in," parent Nathan Barfield said, according to another Atlanta TV station, WXIA. "No person's rights are more important than anyone else. My son has a huge heart and he doesn't want to say anything for fear that he is going to be labeled a bully." He called Wilson's announcement a "political stunt."

Trans-supportive attendee Kayla Hollyfield countered, "You should be able to use any restroom that you want to use. This is not about left or right. It's about equal rights. It's not an agenda."

"The safety of our children is to do this in the most loving, equal, best way possible," she added. "This is going to happen. This about love, not about separation, only going backwards. Let's move forward."

Kino Ciel Stanfield, who transitioned after graduating from Pickett County High School in 2017, said he used a single-stall restroom in the nurse's office when he was in school because that was easier on everyone, although there wasn't a policy in place. He stressed to attendees that transitioning isn't something done on a whim, the Journal-Constitution reports.

"To transition isn't something taken lightly," he said. "I spoke to doctors and specialists and we came to the conclusion that this was best for me."

A gay graduate from the same year, Jordan Stuart, spoke out for trans youth. "What you don't understand is that a trans man is a man and a trans woman is a woman," he told attendees, according to the Journal-Constitution. "They just want to be able to go to the bathroom and do their business like everyone else. Too many LGBTQ youth avoid using the bathroom at all at school, to the detriment of their health."

Wilson said he took note of all the comments that were made and would issue a statement in a few days.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.