Members of the Wausau School Board are rethinking new rules surrounding transgender policies, after the policy change stirred a flurry of controversy among parents and community members.
The new rules, established Aug. 22, are in response to a controversial May 13 order from the Obama administration requiring schools receiving Title IX funding to allow transgender students equal access to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of their preferred gender identity. Federal law currently prohibits sex discrimination but does not address gender identity discrimination.
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The policy change prompted dozens of area residents to speak out, most of whom were not in favor of the new rules. Board members on Sept. 26 voted to revisit the rules, and will meet again at 5 pm Monday, Oct. 3, to take up the matter.
Meanwhile, the federal requirements remain in question. A Texas judge on Aug. 21 issued a nationwide injunction barring federal agencies from taking action against school districts that don’t follow the national guidance on transgender policies in schools. If the Obama administration’s order is upheld by the courts, Wausau schools stand to lose more than $8.5 million annually in federal funding if they do not comply.
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Board member Pat McKee calls the situation a “delicate balance” between addressing the needs of transgender students along with the needs of non-transgender students.
“I believe a collaborative discussion can yield a positive outcome for all stakeholders, but it will require compromise and a broader understanding of the issue by both sides,” McKee says.