The right's trans bathroom panic is a lie: Schools debunk claims of harassment from non-discrimination laws

A Media Matters report shows Mike Huckabee's fixation with spying on girls is unfounded (and bizarre)

By Jenny Kutner
Published June 3, 2015 7:05PM (EDT)
  (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
(Reuters/Brian Snyder)

We already know that some conservative men seem to have a creepy fixation with the idea of using anti-discrimination laws to spy on teen girls in various states of undress. We get it: The likes of Mike Huckabee, Bill O'Reilly and co. believe that laws meant to prevent discrimination against transgender people will necessarily allow determined perverts to lie about their gender identity and sneak into women's restrooms. It's a very elaborate conception of a threat. And it's also one that's been repeatedly debunked in practice.

Contradicting conservative media outlets' favored claim that trans-inclusive non-discrimination policies promote "confusion" and harassment among students in particular, Media Matters spoke with numerous school districts where such measures have been enforced and found -- gasp! -- that none of those negative effects had actually resulted.

The website contacted representatives from the largest districts in a dozen states that have laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination in public facilities, and compiled a list of examples from 17 districts -- overseeing a total of 600,000 students -- that have not faced any of the doomsday scenarios dreamt up by right-wing pundits. Time and again, Media Matters received similarly phrased reports indicating that schools hadn't experienced any reports of harassment by transgender students attempting to use restrooms of their self-identified genders.

What's heartening about some of the responses is the clarity public school officials offer in understanding the threat of anti-trans discrimination. Several district representatives told Media Matters that their dedication to complying with non-discrimination measures wasn't simply for the sake of following the law, but also for the protection of transgender students. Boston Public Schools' Chief Equity Officer Tanisha Sullivan, for instance, shared her district's approach to trans equality:

While there is state law and a district non-discrimination policy that protects all of our students from and against discrimination and harassment, we are most proud of our work with schools and external partners over the past two years to deepen our capacity to proactively meet the needs of our GLBT students. To that end, we have not received specific complaints regarding bathroom access; however, over the past year our Equity Office has responded to requests from schools to help educate staff on the state law, our policy, and overall inclusion of transgender students. This led to the establishment of a working group in 2015 to review the impact that some of our district procedures have on transgender students, as well as efforts to increase training specifically related to effective engagement and inclusion of our GLBT community.

Read Media Matters' entire case against conservative pundits' trans bathroom panic here.

Jenny Kutner

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