- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) - A northern Utah school district is refusing to comply with the Obama administration’s directive to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Box Elder School Superintendent Ron Tolman sent a letter to parents explaining that schools in his district will instead continue to work with parents whose children have “unique requirements” on a case-by-case basis, Tolman said in a letter, KSL-TV reports (https://bit.ly/20L2bFa).

“At no time do we intend to sacrifice the rights of the general population of students for political reasons,” Tolman wrote. “We do not believe that President Obama has the moral nor bureaucratic authority to issue such a far-reaching federal directive.”

LGBT advocates in Utah have applauded the directive as an important, potentially lifesaving rule that sent an important message to transgender students that they are accepted.

But many of Utah’s conservative leaders have criticized the order, saying school districts should be allowed to make their own decisions on the issue based on local feedback from parents and others.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, calls the order an “extreme example of federal overreach” and said he believes it would harm transgender students by forcing them to use a facility that’s not private and exacerbate any bullying they may experience.

Utah this week joined 10 other states and sued over the directive, accusing the Obama administration of conspiring to turn “educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment.”

The Utah State Board of Education sent a letter to districts earlier this month saying it won’t provide school districts with guidance on the mandate and doesn’t expect them to change their current practices. The board said it will leave the decision to the districts.

The Box Elder School District decision on the mandate hasn’t triggered any major backlash, but interviews with several parents this week indicated mixed feelings on the stance.

Parent Scott Watts said he’s on board: “I thought it was really inappropriate for (Obama) to make that choice for everybody.”

But Shawn Ferguson isn’t happy with the letter: “People should be able to use the restroom that is, you know, for the gender that they identify as.”

Aubree Nickle, who is engaged to a woman and believes in equal rights, said she doesn’t have a strong opinion either way and is just happy she doesn’t have to make what is a difficult decision.

“We need to have protections in the bathrooms, regardless of who’s going in them,” Nickle said.


Information from: KSL-TV, https://www.ksl.com/

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