- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

DERBY, Kan. (AP) - A south-central Kansas school district has agreed to let students use bathrooms matching their gender identity while a local task force explores the issue that has divided the school system’s patrons.

The governing board of the Derby school system near Wichita made that decision Monday, the Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/2a9Kl0q ) reported.

The Obama administration two months ago directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. Derby officials have said they would comply, though the state’s education board has voted to ignore the directive, arguing local schools are best suited to decide how to handle issues transgender students face.

In Derby, parents and others have formed Facebook groups and circulated petitions to either support the district’s decision or urge them to reconsider, and people who attended Monday night’s school board meeting spoke on both sides of the issue.

Jamie Black, a 15-year-old transgender Derby High sophomore, welcomed the district’s compliance with the Obama administration’s directive that allows his use of the boys’ bathroom, rather than the girl’s bathroom or one in the nurse’s office.



“If I hadn’t come out yet, I wouldn’t come out today, in this kind of environment,” Black said, fighting back tears. “Me and my mother have talked about online school, but I want to be like other kids. I want to march in the band and feel accepted. I want to feel like a real boy.”

But Andy Jones, a Derby father, said some members of the South Rock Christian Church where he serves as a student minister have talked about pulling their children out of Derby schools if the current decision stands.

“One question I’ve never heard in this entire situation is: What is the wise thing to do?” Jones said. “Is there a reason the vast majority of other schools in Kansas didn’t rush to a decision? Is there a reason the Kansas Board of Education voted not to follow the directive? Could it be that instead of those schools being behind the times, they’re choosing to be wise with this issue and the process by which a decision is being made?”

Superintendent Craig Wilford said he’ll assemble a task force of students, administrators and community members to study the issue.

“It’s my belief that our community is wise and our students are wise, and they’re mature enough to communicate with each other and present a recommendation to the board,” board member Carolyn Muehring said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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