"This is the return of sanity": School district implements restroom policy based on 'anatomy at birth'

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PERKIOMEN VALLEY, PA - On Monday, October 2nd, the school board for Perkiomen Valley School District approved a policy that specifically states that "multi-user restrooms are for students based on their sex."

The approval that passed on a 5-4 vote followed a month-long debate amongst community residents after a parent said that his daughter was "distressed" about a boy using the girls' bathroom and a massive student walkout against the previous policy. 

During September, hundreds of students walked out of the high school, holding signs that read, "Respect girls' rights," and, "Stay in your bathroom." 

The board initially looked to adopt a policy that would restrict restroom usage based on "biological sex" during the month of September, but one of the board members changed his mind, causing the adoption of the policy to fail. 

Don Fountain, the board member who changed his mind, suggested that the district make some of its high school restrooms "nonbinary," which would then accommodate any student. The board's policy committee directed administrators to consider that proposal. 

However, instead of either of those policies, the board put forward a policy that was similar to its original proposal.

According to this updated version, which is the one that passed on the 5-4 vote and had Fountain's initial agreement, would "limit the multi-user facilities based on sex, but allow for more single-use restrooms to be available to any student, including restrooms previously restricted to staff members. 

On Monday, October 2nd, Fountain said, "A lot of students would be able to benefit from this, probably better than any other compromise we could come up with." 

According to the College Fix, LGBTQ advocates like the Education Law Center's Ashli Giles-Perkins said policies like Perkiomen Valley's are "discriminatory" and have "no legal basis." She said, "We are appalled that districts like Perkiomen Valley have adopted discriminatory policies aimed squarely at trans and nonbinary students."

She said that the Pennsylvania Department of Education needs to establish policies that "protect, not cause additional harm to transgender and nonbinary youth."

Superintendent Barbara Russell said that administrators had been communicating with counselors Tuesday, October 3rd, to support transgender students. She said, "For some, it's not a big deal. They've been use to single-user facilities. For others, it will be a change."

According to Russell, about one percent of Perkiomen Valley High School's 1,700 students are transgender. She said, "What we expect is that our students will follow the rules, staff will uphold the rules and redirect students if necessary."

She added that, "at this point, our staff have not been assigned to monitor restroom use." Advocates for LGBTQ students say that restricting any access to multi-user restrooms is discriminatory because it does not allow transgender students the same access as their peers.

During the board meeting on Monday, October 2nd, a heated argument ensued after one of the board members asked how teachers would assess a student's sex, which defined under the new policy is "the biological sex classification based upon chromosomal structure and anatomy at birth." 
 
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