School district not budging on transgender bathroom decision

Dripping Springs School Board Meeting_353307

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — The issue getting the most attention at the Dripping Springs school board meeting wasn’t even on the agenda.

According to parents, a third grader at Walnut Springs Elementary born as a boy, but identifies as a girl, has been allowed to use the girls bathroom since the beginning of this school year. Hundreds of parents packed the meeting Monday night to voice their opinion about the transgender student, and how the district has handled the situation.

The district opened two overflow rooms to accommodate the large crowd. The board president said 41 people signed up to speak during public comments which took about two hours.

“This district has violated our trust by lack of transparency and not informing parents of what is happening in our school bathrooms,” said Blake Stotler, a parent at Walnut Springs Elementary.

Stotler and several other parents told the board letters should have been sent to parents informing them about the accommodation the campus made for one child.

“It’s a matter of safety, security and privacy for our children,” said parent Mike Phillips. “Our district has decided to accommodate, and I believe assign a policy, that jeopardizes the safety and security of students. There’s no guarantee the little boy will not look under the stall.”

Several current students and parents were also quick to defend the Walnut Springs child, and show support for the district’s decision.

“In all my years during the school day I have never felt threatened in the bathroom,” said Dripping Springs High School senior Natalie Schmidt. “I want to remind everyone we do have stalls. These are children, they are not predators, they’re just children trying to go about their school day.”

“If we’re really concerned about safety and security, let’s lower the speed limit on [Highway] 290,” said James Akers, whose children attended Dripping Springs ISD. “That’s the single biggest issue, dangerous issue that faces our kids every day. It is not little girls in the bathroom.”

Superintendent Bruce Gearing said Walnut Springs Elementary made a special accommodation for the student, like they do for many students.

“I feel confident we’re making the best decisions in the best interest of individual children in individual circumstances,” said Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing who did not feel a letter to every parent at Walnut Springs Elementary was necessary. “We have to be very careful about student confidentiality.”

The school board could not respond to those who made public comments Monday night, but KXAN spoke with school board president Carrie Kroll prior to the meeting.

“Public education insists that we provide a free and safe education for every single student, and that they be non-discriminated based on any sort of number of issues and I feel like the district is proceeding in the correct path,” said Kroll.

Texas Values, a group of Christian conservative advocates, says they will continue pushing for change, but as for now the district is sticking with its decision.

“I’m not sure why I should be concerned,” said Dr. Gearing. “We live in a fantastic society that allows people to express their opinions about things. We’re going to continue to serve individual children on a daily basis and do what we feel is right for those children.”

Dr. Gearing says parents with concerns about the safety of their own children should contact their campus so they can work to find a solution.

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