How Idaho Schools Will Deal With New Federal Guidelines About Transgender Students

May 16, 2016

We’ve heard from some southwest Idaho school districts in the last few days about how they’re reacting to new federal guidelines about transgender students. The Obama administration Friday sent a letter to all public schools that take federal money saying the law that bans gender discrimination also applies to transgender students.

The new guidelines say transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity and should not be required to use separate facilities. The administration says schools treat students in ways that are consistent with their gender identities like using the students’ preferred name and pronouns.

We wanted to know what the statewide reaction might be to this policy.

Alan Dunn is superintendent of the Sugar-Salem School District in eastern Idaho.

“I believe the vast majority of parents and patrons in my district would feel very uncomfortable about having a transgender student in, you know, the locker room or the bathroom of their choice,” Dunn says.

Dunn is also the president of the Idaho School Superintendents Association (ISSA.) He thinks some districts will be comfortable with the new guidelines and some will strongly object. But he thinks even those that dislike them will comply. Dunn believes no district will risk losing federal money for things like special education.

“…because they wouldn’t be able to provide services to those students that tremendously need the services,” he says.

Dunn, who says he’s expressing his opinions not speaking for the ISSA, doesn’t expect to see much pushback from the Idaho education community. But he is predicting lawsuits in the state from parents or others who object to the bathroom and locker room guidelines. Idaho governor Butch Otter also predicts lawsuits against what he called an, “offensive attempt at social engineering.”

“We will explore every available option to ensure that the rights of all Idaho students are protected and that the citizens of Idaho maintain authority over our public education system,” Otter said in a written statement Friday. “I do not believe this Washington, D.C. power play will withstand the legal challenges that are sure to come.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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