Some tampa bay schools were addressing transgender issues before the obama bathroom edict ag gaston birmingham 120

It’s a matter of civil rights, the departments of Education and Justice asserted in a letter to districts. "This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity."

Top district administrators, meanwhile, have been researching specific ways to implement procedures respecting transgender rights — and not only for restroom and locker room use. Matters such as whether a transgender student may run for prom king or queen also need attention as these issues increasingly arise in schools.

When the prom issue came up, principals discovered they could not enter a transgender student‘s candidacy into district computers, which would not recognize a transgender boy in the category of king because the student was listed by his birth gender, School Board chairwoman April Griffin said.

Schools with transgender students also have been allowing those students to use separate faculty restrooms, Griffin noted. The federal letter stated that schools may provide individual-access restrooms to students who request privacy, but only if offered to all students.

"As school boards across Florida work to ensure safe and welcoming learning environments for all of our students," she said, "let these federal directives provide guidance and clarity so that all students are treated equally and consistent with their gender identity. No child should be subject to bullying or harassment in our schools for simply wanting to live an authentic life."

The Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts do not have policies specific to transgender students, either. Officials pointed instead to their broader anti-harassment and anti-discrimination rules as catch-alls, and said they had no immediate plans to revise those.

Lerner, however, said she was slightly taken aback by the issuance of a decree that could result in a loss of federal funding if school districts didn’t comply. "I just don’t remember that many decrees that told public schools what to do, she said. "But sometimes with civil rights, it’s warranted."

About a year ago, the district quietly dealt with a request for a transgender student’s restroom use at Zephyrhills High School, with no community uproar. Only a small number of people contacted the district, primarily to inquire what was going on.

In a similar fashion, it handled the decision of a Mitchell High School teacher to announce her transition two years ago, alerting parents and students at the teacher’s request and receiving mostly support. A few parents raised concerns, which quickly faded away.

Pasco County School Board member Allison Crumbley said she had seen little evidence of problems with transgender student rights in her community. She agreed that student rights must be protected, but wondered why all the attention is going to this issue.

"This is a classic example of our government getting in a world they don’t belong," Guadagnino said. "Do they have (a designated restroom for transgender people) in the White House? When they put one in the White House, I’ll think more seriously about it."

Not every school district and community will have the same levels of acceptance or outrage, noted Griffin, the Hillsborough board chairwoman. That’s why she too bristled at the notion that federal officials would tell school districts what to do.

The new guidance from the Obama administration came one day after the ACLU filed a federal complaint against the Marion County school system for its controversial new policy requiring transgender students to use restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate. That hotly debated issue of restroom use has created a national flashpoint over the rights of transgender individuals, not only in Florida but also in North Carolina and other states that have adopted, or rejected, laws similar to the Marion school district’s rule.

Miami-Dade County, by contrast, has banned discrimination based on gender identification since 2011. In addition to working with students and staff on a case-by-case basis, the district has a Sexual Minority Liaison Network that includes volunteers from every school to assist transgender students and their families.