Emotional Testimony as Blaine County School Trustees Consider Transgender Policy 

  • Tombe / public domain / creative commons

While many Idaho school districts are quietly addressing the issue of accommodations for transgender students, the Blaine County School District is preparing to craft such a policy, which the school board could vote on as soon as mid-July.

President Barack Obama sent a letter to every U.S. school district in May, stating transgender students should be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity, rather than their birth sex. Obama's letter raised the real possibility of school districts being hit with lawsuits or the loss of federal funding if they did not comply. 

In short order, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Idaho's congressional delegation pushed back against Obama's directive, saying it was "a vast overreach" that "showed disregard for states' rights."

Meanwhile, the Boise Independent School District issued a statement that it would comply with federal law and that the directive "reinforces our practice, as well as prior guidance from the federal government." The district added that it was "required to provide access to public facilities consistent with the student's gender identity."

Idaho EdNews reports school districts have been reacting to the directive in a "low-key and matter-of-fact" fashion. However, the Idaho Mountain Express reports, things were anything but quiet at this week's meeting of the Blaine County School District Board of Trustees. According to the Mountain Express, residents "came out in droves" to voice support for or opposition to a proposed transgender policy that would include everything from bathroom accommodations to inclusion on sports teams.

In one particularly emotional moment, Shannon Robertson—who identifies as neither a male nor a female—recently graduated from Wood River High School and said because there was no transgender policy, she did not always feel safe. She was handed a white graduation gown—designated as the color for females graduates—which she later painted half-green in defiance.

“If my family hadn’t come so far to visit, I’d have begged to receive my diploma in private so I wouldn’t have to walk across that stage,” Robertson told trustees. “Even with all the support I had, I didn’t feel safe.”

The Mountain Express reports that the Blaine School District is scheduled to vote on a new district-wide transgender policy at its Tuesday, July 12, meeting.
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