Marion schools sticking with bathroom policy

FOX 35 had the only camera in the board room as the school board discussed transgender bathrooms in its schools.  Thursday morning, most members of Marion County's school board drew a line in the sand about transgender bathrooms.

"I'm sorry. I will never agree to the constitutional right to privacy be given up by 99.5 percent of our students, so that one person can go in the bathroom," said board member Nancy Stacy.

Last month, the Marion County School Board voted to require students to use the bathroom of the gender they were born with, or use a neutral, single-stall restroom.  The board said it will stay the course, despite President Obama's directive issued Friday.  That directive tells public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity.

Stacy said, "We aren't going to be unfair to students. They can have a bathroom… in fact, some of our schools --  Vanguard High School -- even has gender-neutral bathrooms already."

The feds have threatened to pull funding from districts that do not allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.  Marion County currently gets about $53 million from the federal government.

Stacy said, “We have absolutely no fear of losing federal dollars."  She said she believes a one penny sales tax would,  "…completely cover all the dollars we get from the Federal government, and we'd be fine.  So, it's really not that big of a deal."

Board Chair Bobby James sees things differently.  "I'm a person of law, and I'm only one vote. I have no choice but to go along with what the board is saying."

Steven Lake is th eMarion County School Board’s Attorney. "The board's going to let it play out for now. I'm sure if we do receive an investigation letter, we'll cooperate fully and look at ways of working with OCR [Office for Civil Rights] in ways to resolve this," he said. 

Lake said the American Civil Liberties Union, out of Miami, reportedly filed a complaint on behalf of a transgender student  in Marion County who said they were denied bathroom access based on gender identity. But, Lake said the District has received no official documents detailing or confirming that. We’ve reached out to the Miami chapter of the ACLU. When we hear back, we’ll let you know.