Federal transgender school guidelines mirror Atherton rules

Federal transgender school guidelines mirror Atherton rules
Published: May. 13, 2016 at 8:13 PM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2016 at 10:46 PM EDT
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(Source: Todd Hoyer/WAVE 3 News)
(Source: Todd Hoyer/WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Federal guidelines released Friday from the Federal Departments of Education and Justice allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms for their chosen gender.

The new rules are basically, the same rules used by Louisville's Atherton High School.

Thursday night Atherton principal Dr. Thomas Aberli got a heads-up from the United States Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights telling him about the new guidelines.

Soon after that Aberli began getting calls from national news networks, like MSNBC, where he explained live on Friday that the Louisville school made a collaborative decision with the parents.

The new guidelines don't carry any legal requirements, but the intent is to make sure schools offer students surroundings without discrimination.

"It's very validating to know the guidelines that are being put forth are aligned with the decision that our 12-member council came to two years ago," Aberli told us.

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After much debate at Atherton, the decision came down to a simple motto: accommodate don't discriminate.

That came after a student approached school leaders a couple of years ago about transitioning. School leaders did their research, looking at how the courts addressed gender identity and the school's site-based decision-making council decided to allow students to go into the restroom with which they identify.

Aberli says since the controversy two years ago that it's been a non-issue as the school community has been overwhelmingly supportive.

As for critics?

"This is imposing Kardashian family values on every school in America," said Martin Cothran of The Family Foundation.

Cothran told us, the issue should be left up to the states. He says the federal government has no right to re-write anti-discrimination laws to conform with its views on gender. Cothran says what the Obama administration is doing is pushing the views of the minority on the rest of the country. He says the solution is easy.

"You can set up a situation where a transgender student can use the bathroom of their biological gender, or a unisex bathroom," Cothran said.

Louisville native and transgender male, Casey Hoke, says it's not that simple.

Hoke wanted to use the boys restroom at Manual High School years ago when he was a student, but had to use one transgender stall instead. He believes much more has to be done for student safety.

"JCPS (Jefferson County Public Schools) needs to make these changes widespread," he said. "What Atherton is doing needs to be implemented in each school."

Right now JCPS lets each school council decide its restroom policy. A JCPS spokesperson said it is reviewing the new guidelines and will be working with the Board to determine how to move forward as a district.

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