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Education
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

CMS Puts Transgender Restroom Rules On Hold Based On New Court Ruling

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CharlotteObserver.com

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has hit pause on new rules that would have given transgender students access to school bathrooms and locker rooms based on the gender they identify with, Superintendent Ann Clark said Thursday.

The announcement coincides with a letter-writing campaign launched by the N.C. Values Coalition, which is urging parents to bombard CMS with letters saying the regulations that were announced in June would jeopardize students’ “privacy, safety and dignity.” But Clark says the change is based on a Wednesday Supreme Court ruling, not the protest letters.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Virginia school board could block a transgender male student from using the boys’ bathroom. The high court put on hold an appeals court ruling that CMS had used as the basis for some of its new regulations on treatment of transgender students. The situation could change again if the Supreme Court agrees to review that 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

“CMS remains committed to nurturing a safe and welcoming learning environment for every student. As a result of yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we have placed a temporary hold on the section of the CMS bullying prevention regulation which states that transgender students will be given access to the restroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their gender identity,” Clark said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “The rest of the regulation, which is intended to promote consistency in anti-bullying support for all students, will remain intact.”

The CMS regulations also say faculty must respect students’ choice of name and pronoun and instructs schools to avoid gender-based activities that have no educational purpose.

[Read more: CMS says transgender students can choose pronouns, restrooms]

On Wednesday, the N.C. Values Coalition sent a mass email urging parents to protest the CMS regulations announced in June, which were slated to take effect when schools open in August. It asks parents to sign an electronic letter saying that “this policy ignores both federal and state law, and jeopardizes the privacy, safety, and dignity of my child(ren). My child(ren) feel both anxious and disrespected faced with the reality that this new policy will force them to share intimate facilities with members of the opposite sex, threatening their well-being and peace of mind on a day-to-day basis.”

“It’s startling enough that the school district feels they have sovereignty to directly disobey state statute as outlined in HB 2, but some of the stuff in here is shocking,” writes the coalition’s executive director, Tami Fitzgerald.

The campaign comes as a judge weighs arguments for and against House Bill 2, which requires transgender people to use restrooms in government buildings that match their birth certificates, rather than their gender identities.

[Read more: Understanding HB2]

Clark said CMS had begun work on regulations regarding transgender students even before North Carolina lawmakers passed HB2 in March. The lawsuits and political uproar that ensued left principals and teachers confused and wary, she said.

Clark said all of the the new rules are designed to ensure that all students feel safe and respected. “This is about courage, understanding and compassion,” she said in June.

Clark says CMS has no way of tallying how many students are transgender. Experts estimate that only 0.3 percent of the population is transgender, but in a district with about 146,000 students that would come to more than 400 children and teens.

The N.C. Values Coalition email, headed “meet the gender Unicorn,” includes a graphic from a national transgender youth group that uses a purple cartoon unicorn to facilitate discussion of gender. It shows that gender identity, presentation, sexual and romantic attraction can include female, male and “other gender(s).”

CMS officials have not yet responded to the Observer’s request for comment on how accurately the letter represents CMS training, including whether and how the unicorn was used.