Students who stood in line are speaking out after being marked tardy for class and told that they would be disciplined if they continued to protest
Students are speaking out against an Illinois high school that threatened to discipline students who protest the use of bathrooms on the basis of gender identity, rather than biological sex.
On March 17, a group of nearly 150 Waterloo High School students lined up to use the nurse’s restroom after being told if they were uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a student of the opposite sex, they could use the single-stall unisex bathroom, students told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Following the protest, Superintendent Brian Charron notified the school community that the students who stood in line were marked tardy from class and those who continue to protest the issue will be disciplined, a move students believe is unfair, they told the DCNF. (RELATED: ‘Simply Common Sense’: A Federal Ruling On Transgender Bathrooms Could Also Apply To Women’s Sports, Legal Experts Say)
“On Friday, around 150 students, including myself, stood up for our rights and beliefs,” Anna Demers, a Waterloo High School senior, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We were told to use a single stall restroom in the nurse’s office if we were uncomfortable with persons of the opposite genitalia in our restrooms. We all stood in line, to use the restroom, and to make a statement. When we tried to stress our safety concerns prior to the events Friday, we were not acknowledged and heard. The events on Friday were peaceful on our part, aside from a few disrespectful individuals, which is inevitable because as teenagers, life is a learning process.”
After a biological female started using the boys’ bathroom, several male students told school administration they were uncomfortable, Charron wrote. The administration advised the students to use the nurse’s office bathroom if they were uncomfortable sharing a restroom with the opposite sex.
Under school district policy, students are allowed to use bathrooms on the basis of gender identity rather than biological sex, Charron wrote in an email obtained by the DCNF. The policy, which has been in place since 2017, is in accordance with state and federal law, the email stated.
Students who lined up to use the nurse’s bathroom were marked tardy or absent from class and the school district will discipline students who repeat the actions and continue to protest the policy, Charron wrote in the email.
“We want all parents and students to understand that we will not tolerate another significant disruption in school,” Charron wrote. “Students who participated in this disruption today were marked tardy or absent from class. We understand that a similar plan is in place for Monday. Students who attempt to repeat today’s actions will be disciplined for attempting to cause a disruption in school. To the extent we determine that the nurse’s office bathroom line was a form of harassment, students will be disciplined for their participation in the harassment.”
Students lined up outside of the nurse’s bathroom because that is what the administration directed them to do as a solution to their concerns, Eric Williams, a Waterloo High School senior, told the DCNF.
“They said any other act of protest like what they said the line was, was to be brought down with disciplinary measures,” Williams told the DCNF. “That alone is a violation of our first constitutional right to assemble peacefully and organized. We were doing only what the administration told us to do and we get punished for following it, that is unfair and with everything else I’ve stated, I’m quite frankly disappointed with our board and administration with how they handled this. The email only solidified that the line, and any other kind of petition or protest, is going to be silenced.”
The school district alleged that the students and parents, including some who stood in line to use the bathroom made “disparaging comments about transgender students,” the email stated.
“The students that are involved in the LGBTQ+ community think negatively towards us in all aspects,” Williams told the DCNF. “While we were peacefully waiting in line to use the restrooms the administration told us we could use Friday, we were getting verbally harassed by the members, we were called homophobic and transphobic. That just is not true. I am not scared nor do I hold any hatred. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less what they do with their body and what they identify as but when it reaches my security, privacy and sanctity, that is where it crosses the line.”
A school board meeting was held on Monday to field concerns regarding the institution’s bathroom policy, Charron said in a Monday email obtained by the DCNF. The school district’s architects are addressing how the current bathrooms, specifically the men’s urinals, can be modified for more privacy and are considering designs for gender-neutral bathrooms, the email stated.
Students who protested will continue to use the nurse’s office until the district provides a solution, Demers told the DCNF.
“The Board of Education and the Administration are committed to creating a common sense approach to this issue that focuses on the safety and privacy for all students,” Charron wrote.
The Waterloo High School controversy comes as school boards across the country are debating whether to separate sex-segregated spaces, such as bathrooms, on the basis of biological sex or gender identity; a Florida school district recently reversed its policy and now requires students to use bathrooms on the basis of biological sex. After community backlash, an Idaho school board canceled a policy that allowed students to use bathrooms that best corresponded with their gender identity.
“I want an education, not harassment charges for worrying about the safety of myself and others,” Demers told the DCNF. “This isn’t a gender issue, I am friends with and love many people in the LGBTQIA+ community. This is a safety issue for people on all sides of this issue.”
Charron did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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