Milford High School students may not have urinals in their bathrooms much longer as board members look for a compromise in the fight over a proposed policy regarding bathroom and locker room use by transgender and non-binary students.
“We talk about our responsibility as school board members on a divided issue, which is to compromise. This is the compromise,” said board member Noah Boudreault.
Dozens of students, teachers, parents, and community members spoke out Monday night, most opposed to the policy which would bar transgender students from most bathrooms and locker rooms. Nate Wheeler, board vice chair, proposed the new policy which would, for example, prohibit biological males who identify as female from using bathrooms and locker rooms for female students. Those students would instead be required to use separate facilities.
Wheeler did not address the controversy during the meeting, though Chair Judi Zaino expressed dismay about the proposal and indicated she would vote against it.
“I would be acting with malice to put a population in danger, and that is why I feel the way I do,” Zaino said. “I do feel there is a degree of malice here, and that concerns me greatly.”
Boudreault’s counterproposal is to limit bathroom use for everyone. Students would only be allowed to use stalls in the bathrooms and changing stalls in locker rooms, with no changing in common areas.
The overwhelming majority of people who spoke out Monday night were opposed to Wheeler’s proposal, telling board members it was born of hate. They predicted it would directly lead to an untold number of trans students committing suicide. One resident said it was anti-science, claiming there are now more than two recognized genders.
State Rep. Maria Perez, D-Milford, said school board members who support the policy ought to be ashamed of themselves.
“What this school board is trying to pass, it doesn’t adhere to human rights. Let them be. They are not doing anything wrong to you,” Perez said.
But there is a problem with female students being harassed in the locker rooms by transgender students, according to Samaia DeMarco, who recently testified in Concord about the bullying and harassment female students are experiencing in Milford. Marco told the Monday night meeting the policy is meant to keep the girls safe. The opponents were engaged in a bullying attempt to silence girls and women, she said.
“They’re claiming discrimination while ignoring children’s voices,” Demarco said.
Demarco also accused Perez of laughing as a female student who also testified in Concord about being harassed by transgender students.
“Do you feel shame for laughing at the little girl who shared her testimony,” Demarco asked.
The issue of public safety when addressing transitioning students has emerged as a significant topic in the wake of a high-profile case in northern Virginia, where a transgender teenager was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female student in a bathroom. Parents were outraged when they learned the biological male was transferred to another school, where he allegedly forced a second victim into a classroom, nearly suffocated her, and sexually assaulted her.
The result for the school district has been a lawsuit, the firing of the superintendent, and criminal charges against school officials.
It is not clear if Boudreault’s compromise plan is workable. His plan would eventually put stalls in all the bathrooms and remove urinals. The costs could be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and there is no current plan in place to fund the bathroom renovations.
Additionally, school board members learned Monday night schools are legally required to provide a certain number of bathroom facilities based on population. Limiting the use to stalls would likely drop the number of bathrooms below the required limit. There are also logistical questions about getting students changed in time for gym class if the space is limited.