By Stephanie Curry, Esq. Public Policy Manager for Family Policy Alliance®
In 2012, federal prison guidelines required prisons to start considering “gender identity” when placing inmates. This meant a man could be issued women’s clothing, use women’s showers or even be transferred to an all woman’s prison by saying he identified as a woman, without having had a sex change operation. Just as disturbing is that a woman could be transferred to an all men’s prison as well. Once these guidelines were passed and implemented, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was the target of multiple lawsuits from women who were threatened and abused as a result of the new policy.
The Women of Fort Worth
One group of prisoners who sued the BOP were female inmates in Fort Worth, Texas. Their lawsuits declared that it was dangerous and degrading for the Bureau of Prisons to allow men (who identified as women) into women’s bathrooms and showers. The behavior of the men caused the women to suffer “disgust, embarrassment, humiliation, stress, degradation, fear and loss of dignity.”
Certainly, prisoners live in a world very different than the one we’re accustomed to. But the Supreme Court has been very clear that prisoners have basic constitutional rights that belong to all citizens and cannot be taken away by the government. For example, prisoners have the right to be free from cruelty, inhumane treatment, and humiliation. This means even inmates retain the right to bodily privacy and dignity.
In a larger sense, the right to bodily privacy means that prisoners cannot be subject to physical humiliations, such as the refusal of clothing or showers. It also means being free from sexual violence and harassment and having the right to use a bathroom with privacy, especially and particularly from the opposite sex. This is not only to protect the prisoner’s safety, but also to protect their dignity.
The good news is the Bureau of Prisons recently updated their policies (in light of the multiple lawsuits and Trump Administration guidance) declaring prisoners’ safety to be paramount above gender identity considerations. Biological sex will once again be the first factor considered when placing prisoners.
But that leads us to our next question:
If bodily privacy is a basic right that belongs to prisoners, why doesn’t it also belong to our students in schools?
Standing for Students
The women of Fort Worth asked themselves that same question when the Obama Administration handed down the “Transgender Mandate,” a policy that would allow men and boys into girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools. These female inmates were horrified at the government’s willingness to compromise our children’s safety in schools. These women had experienced men in their bathrooms and found it to be a traumatic violation. The women rose up on behalf of students in Texas schools– from their prison cells. They requested to be intervenors in the lawsuit to stop the Obama administration rule from going into effect. (Intervenors are those who are not a party to a lawsuit, but they offer an important perspective on an issue.) They certainly had a unique perspective because they had lived through this policy being implemented and found it to be dangerous, fundamentally unfair, and a deep violation of their privacy and bodily integrity.
A Texas Federal Court did block the school Transgender Mandate. The Trump Administration also issued a memo officially reversing the school Transgender Mandate from Obama’s era. But the damage had already been done.
Schools are still implementing policies that allow men and boys into girls’ bathrooms! Of course, it is absurd to think that prisoners have a more protected right to privacy than our children. Yet, that is what is happening across the country as schools implement “non-discrimination” policies or “transgender rights” policies.
Family Policy Alliance and our allied groups in over 40 states want to partner with you to protect your child’s privacy at school in your state. The government does not and cannot have the power to take away the privacy, safety, or dignity of our children. If you have children in schools, learn your school’s bathroom and privacy policies. If you have questions about the policy or if the policy violates your child’s privacy rights, please reach out to Family Policy Alliance or your state-based ally. Finally, please support candidates in the upcoming election who are willing to protect the privacy and safety of our children in schools!
“There is no way that my state would threaten my daughter’s safety by allowing boys in her bathroom.”
Many parents in Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota probably thought the same thing. Yet, these are all states where the state Department or Board of Education has decided to issue a rule mandating that schools in the state change their policies on gender, at the risk of the privacy and safety of all students in the state. This is typical tactic of the Left. Activists know they would not be able to properly pass legislation changing the rules on gender through the state legislature, so they look to administrative departments, like Departments of Education, to issue directives with minimal public input from parents and families.
Just this summer, the Minnesota Department of Education released a “Transgender Toolkit,” guiding schools to allow students to use the bathroom or shower facility of whichever sex they identify with, regardless of their actual sex. The Toolkit also comes with implications to freedom of speech, directing schools to stop referring to students with sex-specific pronouns like he, she, him or her. A decision to use a pronoun other than the ones preferred will likely be considered verbal harassment.
John Helmberger, President & CEO of Family Policy Alliance’s state ally, Minnesota Family Council, shared how they’re working hard to help families in his state: “No student should ever be pressured to undress, shower or share a bedroom with someone of the opposite biological sex, or be forced to use language that’s false and contradicts their sincerely held beliefs – nor should parents ever be threatened with investigation for abuse if they don’t affirm their child’s gender confusion – yet these are exactly the kind of situations the Transgender Toolkit promotes. We’re encouraging parents to watch their school districts closely to ensure student privacy, free speech and parents’ rights are protected.”
Delaware’s Department of Education is now considering a new regulation that would also force schools to allow students to use the bathroom or shower facility of their choosing, regardless of sex, and permit boys to access girls’ sports teams. The Delaware rule would also permit students to select their own sex and race — without requiring that parents give consent or even be notified!
Nicole Theis, president of Family Policy Alliance’s state ally, Delaware Family Policy Council, warned parents: ““It’s a safety and privacy concern when any student of any age, at any time, can claim or self-identify as the opposite gender and have access to the locker rooms, showers, restrooms, overnight accommodations, and any school activity, such as sports teams, that is gender specific. No federal law requires school districts to grant students access to facilities dedicated to the opposite sex.”
Even beyond the important privacy and safety concerns for students, these policies that change the rules on gender could subject teachers, staff, and even students to disciplinary actions or censored speech if they use the “wrong gender” pronoun when referring to a student or express a Christian view of gender and sexuality. Some of these policies go so far as to require teachers and staff to have “sensitivity training.”
Here’s the bottom line: Every child, including children struggling with gender identity, deserves to be safe and valued at school. Local school districts can work to accommodate the needs of these individual students without issuing state-wide mandates that violate the privacy and safety rights of all students.
The question is—do you know what’s going on in your state that will impact your children’s or grandchildren’s schools?
This information is not meant to scare, but rather is meant to encourage you to stay involved and not allow similar policies to slip into your child’s school. If you haven’t had a chance yet to update your information with us, please make sure we have your address (not just your email), so we can send you alerts and information about what’s happening specific to your state!
And, if you don’t mind, please forward this message to friends who would want this information too so that they can sign up for state-specific alerts!
Thank you for joining our alliance to protect life, families and religious freedom in your state — and every state!
TAKE ACTION Update Your Information
The Minnesota Department of Education has just approved a transgender “toolkit” that will be distributed to all public and charter schools in the state.
The toolkit, which was authored by a number of transgender and gay-rights activists, directs schools to stop referring to students with gender-specific pronouns like he, she, him or her. A decision to use a pronoun other than the ones preferred will likely be considered verbal harassment.
It also instructs schools to allow students to use the bathroom or shower facility of whichever sex they identify with, regardless of their actual sex. In a nod to the extreme discomfort that such policies will produce, the toolkit advises schools to make single-user restrooms available—not to accommodate the rare transgender student—but for other students who feel uncomfortable sharing intimate space with a person of the opposite sex.
State Rep. Tim Miller, a 2016 alumnus of the Family Policy Foundation’s Statesmen Academy, took to the airwaves to address the situation on Fox & Friends.
Miller pointed to the hypocrisy of the transgender activists, noting that at one point they criticized him for speaking out against their agenda “since there are only a few (transgender) kids throughout the entire state of Minnesota.” But now they claim that this broad, statewide policy is needed because there are so many transgender students. “Common sense has sort of left the room,” said Miller. You can watch a video of his appearance here.
“Though 67 Minnesota legislators authored a letter urging decision makers to prevent approval and distribution of the toolkit, they were ignored,” said Meredith Campbell, Policy Director for Minnesota Family Council. “This irresponsible, disrespectful decision to ignore legislators’ recommendations is shocking, especially being that gender nonconforming issues remain unsettled in science, the courts and the Minnesota legislature.”
This is not the first time that transgender policy has been in recent Minnesota headlines. In May, we reported that a Minnesota kindergarten incorporated a transgender book, My Princess Boy, into its curriculum. That’s because the parents of a 5 year-old boy—who has long blond braids, dresses in jumpers with tights and identifies as a girl—complained about bullying and asked school officials to proactively teach kindergartners about gender identity.
Family Policy Alliance is working with our state allies throughout the country to protect children’s privacy and uphold parental rights. To support this critical work, please click here.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard abandons a common sense approach to the issue at hand.
Colorado Springs, CO, March 2, 2016–South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have protected children from predators and provided accommodations for students who are not comfortable using the bathroom or locker room facilities that correspond with their biological sex. HB 1008 was passed by both the House and Senate and said that students should be required to use the bathroom and changing rooms that correspond to their sex at birth, a common sense approach to the issue at hand.
“We sincerely believe that the Governor missed an opportunity,” said Dale Bartscher, president of Family Heritage Alliance, “to get out in front of this issue and help accommodate both sides in a peaceful and respectful manner.”
CitizenLink and its alliance with nearly 40 state-based policy groups, including Family Heritage Alliance, worked to activate South Dakotans to contact the Governor and encourage him to sign the bill into law. Despite the disappointing outcome, we will continue to stand for families across the nation.
“No child should be forced to share a bathroom or locker room with someone of the opposite sex while at school,” said CitizenLink President and CEO Paul Weber. “We will continue to work, along with our state-based policy groups, to promote laws that protect the institution of the family and provide safety for our children.”
CitizenLink is a public policy partner of Focus on the Family. Our mission is to see a nation where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.