By Maddie Hobbs
recent consideration of a measure in the Eastern Lancaster County School District that restricts transgender students to using the restroom of their birth sex has sparked controversy throughout the district.
The measure includes a multi-million renovation budget to implement single-user stalls in locker rooms and gender-neutral restrooms to eventually be used by all students. In the meantime, students would be forced to use the bathroom of their birth sex. This reverses the school board’s earlier ruling that allowed a transgender student to use the boys’ locker room. The situation was further complicated when the Supreme Court refused to hear a lawsuit on the issue, upholding the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ earlier decision in favor of a school district’s trans-friendly bathroom policy.
Measures like the one proposed at Elanco harm trans students, according to a report by GLSEN, a national organization that focuses on the safety of LGBT students. Even the proposed individual changing stalls in locker rooms would not counteract the effects of the measure and as Noah Paules, a transgender freshman at Township, pointed out, “stalls don’t do much. You’re still in a bathroom that you’re uncomfortable in.”
The policy has also prompted some responses from students in Manheim Township. Morrigan Buch, a gender-nonconforming junior, said that “it’s so disheartening to think that these people who have worked so hard to build this identity for themselves and to really carve out this place in the world for themselves, for them to be told that none of that matters.” Others at Township see some reasoning behind the policy. Cloe Zuercher, a freshman, said that “because of my religion, it’s hard to fully support the idea, but I wouldn’t feel less safe.”
At Township, there have been no issues brought to administration with accommodating students who are transitioning, according to David Rilatt, the building principal. Noah Paules said of his experience transitioning in high school that “it has been much better than I thought it would be in the beginning. I was just having panic attacks just thinking about what it would be like going back to school for the first time with all these changes, but it was ok and everyone was nice about it.”
On the administrative side, Township generally works with each transgender student on a case-by-case basis so that each student can receive the accommodations that they need. “We want to be very supportive, we want to understand their perspective. In the end, we want every student here to feel comfortable with who they are, and also be in a safe place,” said Rilatt.
The staff at Township have also participated in several awareness training sessions, the most recent happening in November of 2018. Staff at the middle and high school attended a presentation given by the assistant superintendent at Central Dauphin School District, Karen McConnell, who is transgender. “It was really a big awareness training, and giving teachers the background knowledge about transgender students in school settings,” according to Rilatt.
No matter the school district or the rules that govern it, students use the restroom to use the restroom, said Dylan Duckett, a senior at Township.