School officials in Kentucky were seeking guidance Friday on an Obama administration directive that schools must permit transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.
Gov. Matt Bevin issued a statement that said, in part: “It is difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”
Kentucky School Boards Association spokesman Brad Hughes said his group was getting phone calls from school district officials after the directive was issued Friday.
“We’re not going to give school districts a knee-jerk reaction to this until we can really study what it says,” Hughes said. “The word to them is to continue to ensure that every single child in that school is neither discriminated against, harassed, and if this issue comes up, then you’ve got to work with the parents and the child to accommodate them.”
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Hughes said one administrator shared with him a solution they found on Thursday before the directive was issued. That district’s officials offered a transgender student the option of going to the bathroom in the nurse’s office or going to the bathroom identified with the gender on the student’s school records. Hughes said the student and the student’s family was in agreement with the solution.
Lisa Deffendall, a spokeswoman for Fayette County Public Schools, said “we’re already in compliance” with the directive.
“The district has and will continue to work in close partnership with students and families on a case-by-case basis,” she said..“ Our school district does and will continue to comply with local, state and federal laws. We have always worked in close partnership with students and families on this issue and we will continue to do what is right and ensure that all students feel welcome and respected in our schools.
“Fayette County Public Schools is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment that meets the educational, social, emotional and privacy needs of all individuals learning and working in our facilities,” Deffendall said.
Bevin said that, under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, the federal government “ has no authority to interfere in local school districts' bathroom policies. The president is not promoting unity. In fact, he is doing quite the opposite. He is intentionally dividing America by threatening to sue or withhold funding from our cash-strapped public schools if they do not agree with his personal opinion on policies that remain squarely in their jurisdiction. They should not feel compelled to bow to such intimidation.”
Bevin said his administration is “researching the options available for ensuring that this local issue is decided by Kentuckians, not by bureaucrats in Washington.”
Martin Cothran, a spokesman for the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky, also spoke out against the directive.
“The federal government has no business forcing the increasingly absurd dictates of gender ideology on every school in this country,” Cothran said. “We are now fondly remembering the days when liberals talked about the evils of imposing your morality on other people. Now they are doing it with impunity and engaging in the political equivalent of bullying in the process.”
Kentucky House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover said he was concerned that districts not complying could lose federal funds.
“Today, President Obama directed every public school to provide transgender access to bathrooms, or face the loss of federal funds. Kentucky will not be held hostage to President Obama, particularly when it comes to the safety of children in our schools,” Hoover said in a statement.
Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said officials there are reviewing the directive and “once that is complete will render guidance to school districts to assist them in their decision making.”