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Gender-Neutral Bathroom Leads To Fight At Los Angeles School

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

A fight erupted in the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday over the addition of a gender-neutral bathroom, according to The Washington Post.

Students at the Santee Education Complex, a high school in the district, gathered a petition of 700 signatures to add a gender-neutral bathroom so that trans students would have a restroom to use without encountering questions or harassment for being there. It opened a week ago. The campaign was pushed by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

Then Westboro Baptist Church, identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, decided to protest the additional bathroom on Tuesday, and shouted at students, telling them they were “going to hell,” according to the Associated Press. Students began communicating with protesters. Eventually, they started throwing things at them, such as water bottles and fruit, and a fight broke out. No one was seriously injured or arrested, according to the AP. Police officers came to the school Wednesday in case more protesters showed up, but none did.

There have been other incidents of protesters getting involved in school decisions aimed to make LGBT students students feel more comfortable at school, whether they are parents of students, community members or outside groups. Last fall, at Hillsboro High School in Missouri, a parent asked the school board to stop “extending privileges” to trans students. The parent threatened to sue the school over concerns about one trans student in particular, Lila Perry, who was allowed to use the girls’ locker room. Soon parents organized against the school for not responding to their concerns and students protested her decision to use the girls restroom and locker room by staging a walkout. After the controversy erupted, students staged a rally in support of the trans student, CNN reported.

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Gay Straight Alliances, student organizations that work to make school environments more welcoming for LGBT students, have also come under attack by parents, community members, and hate groups. When students moved to form a GSA at Franklin County High School in Tennessee, angry parents and adults unconnected to the school coordinated with Mass Resistance, defined as an anti-LGBT group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to argue against the GSA. Last month, there was a protest and heated arguments between opponents and proponents of the GSA. Anti-LGBT residents claimed it furthered a “radical gay political agenda.”

Last week, the school board voted for new rules for all student organizations that many argue inhibit the effectiveness of a GSA, because they require parent permission to join. Allie Faxon, a member of the GSA, said she and her mother filed online with the ACLU on March 30. ThinkProgress reached out to the ACLU but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

At the same time protests are heating up over accommodations made to LGBT students, a spate of anti-LGBT bills are either being considered or recently passed through state legislatures. Bills focusing on policing trans people’s use of bathrooms have been particularly common. North Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, Washington, South Dakota, and possibly next, South Carolina, have all considered bills limiting trans rights, including lack of bathroom access. The Tennessee bill failed earlier this week after the bill’s sponsor said she was withdrawing the legislation and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the state’s anti-trans bill last month, but South Dakota lawmakers said they aren’t ready to give up just yet.

A recent federal appeals court decision may help more states abandon their interest in who uses which bathroom, however. On Tuesday, the United States for the Fourth Circuit held in the case G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board that schools could risk losing federal funding if they don’t allow trans people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender. Judge Henry Franklin Floyd, who wrote the majority opinion, referenced the U.S. Department of Education’s regulations, which say, “When a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex … a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”