School board considers transgender-inclusive addendum to its policies

Community members gathered at the Neenah school board meeting on May 16th, 2017. (WLUK/Alexa Santos)

NEENAH, Wisc. (WLUK) -- It's an issue that's affecting some children and families: the question of who can use which school bathrooms and locker rooms.

A newly proposed policy was the subject of a Neenah School Board meeting Tuesday night. The plan includes the idea that students potentially would be able to use the restroom or locker room that matches their choice of gender rather than the gender of their birth.

But the idea is concerning to some parents and advocates. They say the policy would threaten the privacy of the larger student body.

"Our transgender students at our school right now, feel a serious lack of attention to their protection, and this is a serious concern for their safety," Kaylee Jepson, president of the district's Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said.

A group of students, teachers, and school officials brought a proposal to the school district's board to include transgender and gender non-conforming students in the district's anti-discrimination policy.

Natalie Shae, a school counselor, helped write the plan.

"We want to work together within our buildings and with our students and families to come up with solutions to support them," she said.

The idea was discussed at length at Tuesday's meeting.

The transgender-friendly addition lays out support plans. It also discusses that students having special requests regarding restrooms and locker rooms will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"As far as a facility use, it's not a blanket approach. It's on a case-by-case basis, so we can come up with the best solution for each student," Shea said.

This idea was met with some push-back within the meeting.

"It's perverted thinking, perverted lifestyles, and I don't think you should promote that," said James Lucht of Neenah.

And outside the meeting.

"Instead of creating policies that give special rights and protection to a select and special group of students, they ought to be looking to the best interest of all students," said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Council.

Those who wrote the addendum say it wouldn't necessarily mean all transgender students would use the facilities of their identified sex. But critics are concerned some students at the school would be put in an uncomfortable position if that is allowed.

"They should feel that their privacy rights are respected in the appropriate dressing/changing room," Appling said.

These transgender rights advocates say these inclusions would make a big difference.

The school board plans to vote on the proposal June 6.

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