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December 16, 2021

Proposed policy set to regulate restrooms on basis of gender if approved

Colin Nichols
Senior Alexander Collins cries and is consoled after speaking at the podium during the meeting while a previous speaker holds a sign reading “TRANS KIDS Are STILL KIDS.”

Various students, parents, and people of the FHSD community were seen holding up signs and heard speaking out during the Board of Education meeting on Oct. 26, after a newly proposed policy, if approved, would force students to only use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity.

Policy 2116 was proposed on Oct. 22 by Treasurer Jane Puszkar, brought up for reading during the Board meeting on Oct. 26, and will be voted on at the upcoming Nov. 16 meeting. This new policy addresses student privacy and safety concerns in both the restroom and locker room, while requiring all FHSD schools to provide at minimum one single-use restroom for use by students. Francis Howell Central has multiple single-use restrooms available for students.

However, if schools only have one single-use restroom, students will arrive late to class if the restroom is too far from their classes or even on the opposite side of the building. Consequently, students may end up using a public restroom because it is closer. Senior Alexander Collins, a transgender student from Howell High School, suffers from this problem and was sexually assaulted by a female student in a school restroom.

“Most of my classes are on the opposite side of the school. So if I want to go to the bathroom between my classes, I have to sprint down to the nurse and then sprint back,” Collins said. “Frankly, I’m still terrified of public restrooms in general because of that incident. So it scares me to go into any public female restroom because I’m so scared of that happening again. It becomes an illogical field. Once that happens once it doesn’t matter how safe the school tries to make it. It’s going to feel terrifying to me.”

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According to the American Civil Liberties Union, students’ gender identity and gender at birth are confidential information protected by federal privacy law; therefore, schools cannot reveal this information to anyone. Under the policy, no employee should determine a student’s gender “by physical or visual inspection,” which brings up the question at how such a policy would be enforced. Junior Levi Hormuth said there are more important problems to focus on.

“This is not a necessary situation. This isn’t even a problem. What is a problem is just the lack of bus drivers, and their lack of advertising for it, and the radioactive water from the rock pile at FHHS,” Hormuth said. “Imagine a line outside the restroom of people holding a purse, which nobody does because half the students don’t even know where their birth certificates are.”

We reached out to Treasurer Mrs. Jane Puszkar and she said she wouldn’t talk about policies until they’re voted on.

Under this policy, this would prevent students who were falsifying as transgender people from entering a bathroom of the opposite gender. Collins said the Board is discluding an entire group of kids.

“You are scared of [cisgender] people who you believe are pretending to be trans to go into other bathrooms,” Collins said in his speech at the meeting. “I think that they have a good intention of wanting to protect kids, I genuinely do. I just think they’re discluding an entire group of those kids.”

“We’re also kids. We also need to be protected. We just want to pee.”

— Senior Alexander Collins

Under Policy 2116, “except as necessary due to a physical or kinetic disability, only toilets and urinals shall be used to discharge human waste.” Francis Howell Families, a group of district parents and educators who support and recruit candidates for the Board, in a supporting article of the policy responded, “in other words, no cat litter-boxes for staff to clean up.” Mrs. Amy Easterling, a candidate in the April 2023 Board Candidate Forum, said how this was inaccurate.

“There’s been a rumor going around that… some school districts allow children who identify as cats to use litter boxes for their toilet needs,” Mrs. Easterling said. “Surely I thought our elected officials were intelligent enough to realize that this is a hoax. If you believe that this is a true issue you do not have the intelligence nor the judgment to be an elected official.”

Missouri Equity Education Partnership Founder and Director and a parent in the district Mrs. Heather Fleming said this policy reflects who the board is working for.

“This is yet another message from the board about who they consider important in this district. Unfortunately, it’s not some of our most vulnerable students who need our support and additional resources,” Director Fleming said. “One thing we know about children and I used to be a teacher, kids can’t learn in an atmosphere where they don’t feel safe. And this is not making them safe.”

This story was originally published on FHC Today on October 30, 2023.