LGBTQ Advocacy Organizations Issue Open Letter to
Marion County School Board
(May 9, 2016) Six national and local organizations dedicated to advocating on behalf of LGBTQ people have issued an open letter to the Marion County School Board on Monday, May 9th. These organizations all agree that the discriminatory bathroom ban blatantly violates federal law and is already causing real harm to students in the Marion County School District. We are advising students and parents in the district of their options for legal recourse and will work collaboratively to ensure that all students are treated equally in Marion County and across the state.
Additionally, Equality Florida and partner organizations will host a community Town Hall in Ocala on Sunday, May 15th from 5 pm-7 pm. For more information and to RSVP please visit eqfl.org/event/mariontownhall.
An Open Letter: Marion County School Board must reverse discriminatory bathroom ban
The Marion County School Board’s hasty passage of a discriminatory policy prohibiting schools from treating transgender students equally is unlawful, short-sighted, and harmful to all students. As organizations with diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies, we call on the Board to reverse this dangerous and illegal policy.
The new policy passed on Tuesday, April 26th, on a 4-1 vote with strong opposition from both School Board Chair Bobby James and Superintendent George Tomyn. This North Carolina-style policy, which took effect April 27th, prohibits schools from treating transgender students equally and requires them to adopt discriminatory and stigmatizing policies forcing these students to use separate bathrooms.
Prohibiting transgender students from accessing restrooms that correspond to the gender with which they identify and live every day is not only harmful, it also violates federal law. As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in a recent decision regarding a similar school board policy in Virginia, schools that refuse to treat transgender students equally violate Title IX, a federal law that prohibits federally funded public schools from discriminating based on sex. The Department of Justice just warned North Carolina that its discriminatory law violates federal law, and the Eleventh Circuit – which governs Florida – has already ruled that discrimination against transgender people is unlawful sex discrimination. By enacting this resolution, the Marion County School Board has stepped in front of a legal freight train, putting its students at risk, jeopardizing federal funding, and begging for costly litigation.
Requiring transgender boys, who are known to all their peers as boys, to use the girls’ rooms, and requiring transgender girls, who are known to all their peers as girls, to use the boys’ rooms, is not a viable policy because it singles out transgender students in a demeaning and humiliating way.
Excluding transgender students from the same restrooms used by other students sends a message to transgender students and their peers that transgender students should be treated differently. By requiring transgender students to use separate facilities, the new policy further stigmatizes, isolates, and demeans them. Being separated from other students in this way would be damaging to anyone, but it is especially harmful for transgender children, who are already at a disproportionate risk of harassment, bullying, and discriminatory treatment by their teachers and peers.
We join the many local advocates who testified against the resolution at the school board meeting on Tuesday, April 26th in urging the board to repeal this unlawful policy. We know that many more LGBTQ people and allies were afraid to speak out, fearing for their safety and that of their families. We are committed to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ students in Marion County, and we will pursue every avenue to ensure that all students are celebrated and valued for exactly who they are.
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida
Florida Legal Services
National Center for Lesbian Rights
Southern Poverty Law Center