Pasco school board asked to reconsider transgender bathroom policies

A group largely made up of church members packed the Pasco County School Board meeting Tuesday, asking board members to change the district's policy about transgender students.

But a growing group of transgender rights advocates has begun taking the opposite approach: Showing appreciation for the district's current policy about inclusivity.

"The student gets to choose which locker room or restroom they use based on the gender with which they identify," said Linda Cobbe, a Pasco County Schools spokesperson.

The recent debate began after a middle school gym teacher refused to supervise a locker room while a transgender student was using it.

During the last five meetings, dozens of speakers have been asking the board to require students to use the restroom and locker rooms consistent with their birth gender.

"Your DNA and your genetics, that's what determines if you're a male or a female," one speaker told the board Tuesday.

"I'm just concerned with the safety of our children," said another.

Mary Fields of New Port Richey explained to FOX 13 what she believes would be a compromise.

"If they didn't want to make different bathrooms, maybe they could implement different changing times or work a schedule out that could be fair for everybody," she said.

Transgender rights advocates, however, said the current policy is what all districts should have.

"I am standing here today to personally thank you and all Pasco County school district leadership for ensuring young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender are treated equitably and matriculate successfully," said De Palazzo with Equality Florida.

"Your gender identity is something you're born with," added Gina Duncan, Equality Florida's Director of Transgender Equality. "It may or may not align with your physical being and if it doesn't, you happen to be transgender and that is a journey that should be nurtured."

Following the meeting, both sides briefly came together and agreed to try to turn the dispute into a collaborative discussion. They are planning to schedule a town hall where they can voice their opinions and hear from the community.

Meanwhile, the school board is also considering some sort of parental permission slip for club participation. According to a district spokesperson, the issue came up when a parent was concerned her child was participating in the Gay-Straight Alliance club without her knowledge.