Atherton takes first policy step to protect gender identity

Published: May. 16, 2014 at 1:36 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2014 at 1:38 AM EDT
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Matthew Loomis
Matthew Loomis
Lee Cooper
Lee Cooper
Christina Kelty
Christina Kelty
David Kelty
David Kelty

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A student who was born a male and remains anatomically male, but who identifies as female, will continue to use one of two restrooms assigned to female students at Atherton High School.

Atherton's site-based decision council of parents and faculty approved a first reading of a policy barring discrimination based upon race, gender and sexual orientation Thursday. But Principal Tom Aberli had made the restroom assignment prior to the Council's hearing Thursday afternoon.

[VIEW: Letter addressed to Atherton Families]

Eighteen students and parents addressed the Council. Those favoring the policy arguing it's about fairness.

"The bathroom is incidental," parent Matthew Loomis said. "These kids have far more important things to worry about and its kind of silly."

"Just another instance of segregation," high school junior Lee Cooper said while choking back tears. "Something we've fought for, for equal rights, many many times!"

[VIEW: Respecting the Rights of Transgender Youth in the School System]

But opponents claim allowing boys and men to use restrooms assigned to girls and women is an affront to comfort and privacy.

"It's the rights of the few affecting the rights of the many, " freshman Christina Kelty said. "The girls expect to go to the restroom and feel safe because they know what is waiting for them inside."

"That's why it needs to be a Jefferson County system policy," parent David Kelty said. "Board policy versus an individual school."

[VIEW: Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence]

But Kentucky's Education Reform Act vests such power with site-based councils, not county or municipal school boards, considering it a regulation of the space within school buildings.

"Councils set the policy, principals implement it," Aberli said.

Atherton High School also may lack the ability to offer students an option afforded employees of private companies, and customers of retail stores such as Target; a unisex, simple-occupancy "family" restroom. "We have only one such restroom, for faculty and staff," Aberli said.

But several site council members aren't certain that federal law is clear-cut as to how legislative bodies should implement policies governing protections for the transgendered.

"I want to see what Title IX says to this before you apply it,"  said student representative Evan Wright, a non-voting member of the site council.

But Walter Aberli, the principal's father, suggested the law already is on the side of the transgendered and that a non-discrimination policy would bolster such protections.

"I will guarantee there will be nothing but winners," the elder Aberli said. "And that's gonna be Jefferson County Schools, the students and the citizens of this community - the taxpayers."

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