Citizens address Radford School Board about transgender students’ use of bathrooms

A controversy has been simmering in Radford for the past month or so concerning transgender students’ use of bathrooms at Radford High School. That controversy boiled over Monday night when several citizens approached the school board on the issue.

In February, The Patriot contacted Radford School Superintendent Robert Graham concerning a new policy the paper had been told was approved by the school board that allows students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

Graham responded to the paper on Feb. 25 that the Radford School Board had “not adopted and does not currently have a policy specific to transgender students’ use of bathrooms.”

Monday evening four individuals – Mike London, Kenny Alderman, Mick Turk and Kevin Hite – addressed the board on their concerns.

“The school board has stated in its goals to ensure the continued safety of all children and youth who attend Radford High School,” said London. “Parents are a major part of the frontline safety of our children and need to be made aware of any changes that are made at the school that can impact the children’s welfare.”

London noted that, “to date transgender use of the bathrooms has not been communicated to the parents. Parents are being informed through social media and word of mouth in addition to contacting the school board directly.”

“This does not lend itself to a positive, proactive working relationship between the school board and parents, nor is it reflective of the school board’s goal of maintaining safety of the children,” London stated.

He said parents with concerns had learned “through emails with the school board” that policies specific to transgender students’ use of bathrooms do not exist.

“However, transgender students are now being allowed to use the bathroom they identify with,” London said.

“I was informed the schools will work individually with the students who identify as transgender and their parents to ascertain the type of accommodations appropriate for that student with respect to the facilities. Any other student who enters a bathroom or locker room designated for the opposite gender who does not identify as transgender will be subject to discipline,” London said.

“I have two daughters in the Radford school system, and I am concerned that a boy, identifying as a transgender, will access the restroom or locker room – as has already been occurring here and in other schools. This raises potential safety issues, such as taking pictures of children in various stages of undress, sexual advances and possible assault.

“I was offered up a solution of my daughter using a uni-sex or single stall bathroom if she felt uncomfortable using the public restroom,” London added.

“Why has this information not been publicly communicated to all the students since they are the ones impacted by this change,” London asked the board.

London added that there are some restrooms in the school that are only locked at the bathroom stall, not the door.

“So, I still see this as a huge safety concern,” he said.

Alderman, a former principal and board member in the Radford School System, expressed concern over the fact no one knew of what he called “this procedure change.”

“I talked to about 40 adults last week and nobody knew about this,” Alderman stated.  “It really surprises me that parents were not involved or given information about this procedure change. Then I went to talk to a class last week at the high school and before I got in there, I had an individual come to me – a child, female – who went to the girls bathroom. There was a young man in there. She came out tore all to pieces [emotionally].

“And what gets me is this – not even the children knew about it. Not even the children – the ones we’re supposed to protect.”

Alderman told the board there is no law in the state of Virginia about transgender bathroom use, and that there is only Title IX.

“We were very fortunate. We had an alumnus of Radford High School, Dr. Ruth Hammack Alexander. She was at the University of Florida and she helped implement what the true Title IX meant. At the time it was passed, girls and women were faced with difficulties and discrimination in pursuing an education. They basically were looking at sports. In 1972 President Nixon wrote it in as law. In May of 2016, we got that ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from President Obama basically telling us then anyone identifying what they have – they have the right to go to any bathroom they wanted to. Then in 2017 President Trump dismissed that. So, there is no law.

“What you’re afraid of is getting sued. But you all need to understand I have two granddaughters and they can’t speak for themselves, so I will speak for them. What would keep a citizen from coming in here and suing the Radford City School System?

What’s the difference,” he asked.

“When Congress passed Title IX, no one thought that it meant gender identity. It didn’t mean it then, and it does not mean it now,” Alderman said.

He closed his comments by telling the school board, “Not informing us was wrong. Wrong!”

One speaker, Tina Tapp, an English teacher in Radford City Schools, said, “This is a very complicated issue for a lot of children to think about.

“I just want to say that I think the board, our administrators, try really hard to do what’s best for children. It’s a complicated issue that takes a lot of finesse to figure out what’s best for everybody.

“So I just appreciate the fact that you guys (school board) are trying to think of everybody and trying to find a solution for all the children that go to our schools, because all of our children deserve dignity and safety and respect and love.”