Proposed transgender policy raises concerns in Toms River
A petition against the Toms River School District's proposed Transgender Policy has raised concerns about safety and privacy issues.
Shawn Hyland, a graduate of the district and founder of Move the Earth Ministries, said he wrote a letter to the district on Jan. 6, after several parents told him they felt uncomfortable with a provision in the policy allowing students, based on individual needs, to access bathroom and locker rooms of the opposite sex.
Hyland said other provisions of the Transgender Policy are completely personal, such as allowing transgender students to change their school records to reflect their intended gender or to change their name.
"But the minute they begin to access the private spaces of the biological opposite sex kind of breaks the social contact with the student body and puts the safety and privacy of all students at risk," Hyland said.
The petition, on change.org, encourages the district to accommodate transgender students in an alternative room. It includes the letter addressed to John Coleman, the district's assistant superintendent, who Hyland said is in charge of policies.
Hyland said he has had conversations with Coleman about the policy and that Coleman said he fully understood those concerns.
Final adoption of the Transgender Policy could happen at the Board of Education's Feb. 10, 2006 meeting, according to Hyland.
Calls to the district seeking comment on concerns outlined in the petition have not been returned.
Hyland added that he feels the Toms River District is doing a "fine job," and blamed pressure from the Federal Government to update Title IX guidelines (now known as Equal Opportunity in Education Act) with forcing schools nationwide to adopt these policies.
Hyland said his petition had over 220 supporters since the weekend, but said the intention is more about raising awareness of the policy and getting the district to take the concerns of parents into consideration before final adoption, than the number of signatures.
The letter from Hyland to the Toms River District reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Coleman,
I am concerned about the proposed Transgender Policy #5756, read at the last Board of Education meeting on December 16, 2015. Each student deserves a nondiscriminatory learning environment. However, transgender polices that specifically mandate shared bathroom and locker rooms, undermine common sense and potentially violate the long held Sexual Harassment Policy #5751. Forced unwelcomed exposure from the opposite sex will create a sexually hostile learning environment.
In an effort to allow male students who identify as female to use girls' bathrooms and locker rooms, based on subjective and unverifiable identities, not on objective traits; the school board is risking the safety and health of all students. This lack of privacy and safety is extremely serious. If a "non-transgendered" male was to expose his nudity to young girls, the intention would be different, but the effects would be the same. The dramatic repercussions upon the quality of student life would be undeniable.
The children of Toms River Schools should not be used for a social engineering experiment without regard to their experience and its unintended consequences. A highly supervised alternative locker room and bathroom may be required as an accommodation, but government imposing ruinous liability on innocent minors is unacceptable.