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Transgender kids and school bathrooms

February 28, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Should a Colorado transgender girl be permitted to use the girl's bathroom at school?

Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, parents of 6-year-old Coy, who was born male, are suing the Fountain-Fort Carson School District in Colorado after the principal informed them that Coy would no longer be permitted to use the girls' bathroom. Instead, school officials wanted Coy to use the boys' bathroom, faculty bathrooms, or the bathroom in the nurse's office. The school district reasoned that parents of other students and Coy's classmates would become uncomfortable with the situation once Coy hits puberty and they didn't want to set a precedent.

Coy, one of a set of triplets, apparently has acted like and claimed to be a girl since toddlerhood. The parents let Coy dress as a girl since the child was 4 and changed all Coy's identification to indicate female gender.

The Mathis' lawsuit hit the news the same week that Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a new set of guidelines for schools dealing with transgender students. The guidelines instruct schools to treat students as the gender they identify as, including allowing them to use the bathrooms for that gender. Schools would not necessarily inform the parents of the students if their kids identify as a gender different than the one they were born. Teachers are instructed to talk with the student first and find out what the student wants to tell his parents about his gender identity.

It also calls on schools to discipline students who consistently express discomfort with the transgender student or call him or her by the "wrong" gender pronoun. In one high school that had a transgender girl enroll, a principal sent out a notice to teachers that included these instructions: "Continued, repeated, and intentional misuse of names and pronouns may erode the educational environment for Jane. It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline."

Massachusetts' guidelines also state: "Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student. School administrators and counseling staff should work with students to address the discomfort and to foster understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students."

If Coy were attending a Massachusetts school, it's likely that there would be no lawsuit. However, different states have different rules. Last year, Maine, which apparently has a different law in place, ruled that schools are not required to permit a transgender student to use the bathrooms for the gender they identify as. I'm not sure what laws Colorado has in effect, but Coy's school apparently felt it had not been discriminatory because Coy was allowed to dress in girl's clothing, was addressed by the female pronoun and treated like a girl in all other aspects. It might not be a done deal in Massachusetts either. FOX News reports that a Democratic Massachusetts state lawmaker is putting forward a bill that would require people to use the bathrooms (and other sex-segregated facilities and activities) appropriate for their anatomical sex.

Undoubtedly North Dakota schools will be asked to deal with this issue sooner or later, if they haven't already. What do you think is a fair solution for a student like Coy?


Article Comments



Mar-05-13 3:54 PM

There are what personal cares known as ADL's. They are generally used in the geriatric population for medicare protocal. This child can feed himself, dress himself, use the bathroom by himself and wash his hands if he has the propensity to do so. He doesn't lack the ability nor is he hampered by anything other than his parents raising a stink.


Mar-05-13 2:17 PM

Disgusted, people are born with all sorts of problems that need fixing, the earlier in life the better usually. We adapt easily to our environment and how we act in our environment is usually controlled by our environment.


Mar-05-13 2:04 PM

I don't know if it legally qualifies as a disability but it sounds to me like he has either a mental illness or a birth defect, both of which qualify as a disability under ADA. They hamper his day to day functioning.


Mar-05-13 1:24 PM

"Personally, I think the bathroom in the nurse's office was a reasonable solution for the case in Colorado..."

Andrea, I agree with this take of yours. Some people are not willing to be reasonable though.


Mar-05-13 1:23 PM

"But the parents don't think the child should have to be homeschooled and hidden away from society. By law, he's entitled to a free and appropriate public education, with reasonable accommodations made for any disabilities he might have."

Are you saying this transgender child has a "disability?" If so, that designation probably won't play well with other transgenders.


Mar-05-13 12:51 PM

I'm a woman and never had any doubt about it, so no, I would obviously not be comfortable if I mistakenly walked into a men's bathroom. I suppose a girl who feels like she was born the wrong sex might feel the opposite. There have been a handful of cases of "transgender girls" demanding the right to use the boy's bathrooms at their schools in the last few years. I don't imagine that has been popular with all the boys at those schools.

Personally, I think the bathroom in the nurse's office was a reasonable solution for the case in Colorado, but it will be interesting to see if the courts agree. The parents don't want their transgender boy singled out and made to feel different from the little girls in the class.


Mar-05-13 11:34 AM

The school offered a situation and the parents denied it. Special treatment will encourage 'bullying' or teasing. One has to grow up with in the mores of the society and at the same time relish and cherish their uniqueness, but that does not mean shoving their uniqueness down the throats of those in their surroundings.


Mar-05-13 10:42 AM

But the parents don't think the child should have to be homeschooled and hidden away from society. By law, he's entitled to a free and appropriate public education, with reasonable accommodations made for any disabilities he might have. The question is whether his civil rights should extend to use of the girl's bathroom and whether school districts, like those in Massachusetts, have a right to discipline other children for objecting to a transgender kid using a school bathroom or for calling him a boy instead of a girl.

I think the latter situation is problematic, provided the other kid is not being mean about it but just standing by his own personal convictions or religious beliefs or expressing personal discomfort with the situation. Any child who is bullying this kid for being transgender or being deliberately cruel for any other reason SHOULD be disciplined.


Mar-05-13 9:32 AM

Earlybird, I can't agree with that. People are born with anomolies. Playing it out in public is not the answer. Demanding the entire world to change is not the answer. If the family had wanted to maintain privacy and dignity for all of their children, they would have quietly home schooled their children till such time that surgery could be performed. And no one would have been the wiser. Andrea, yes, girls can be bigger bullies than the meanest boys.


Mar-05-13 9:27 AM

It's not a problem that's easily fixed with peer pressure. Some kids with similar issues end up being suicidal in their teens, unfortunately. I would imagine raising the kid this way might be the parents' attempt to head off problems like that when the boy is older.


Mar-05-13 8:04 AM

'What if this child's brain actually IS female inside a male body? I'm not sure how you force a child like that to act like a boy without thoroughly screwing him up psychologically.' I'm pretty sure it is already thoroughly screwed up psychologically. It's best chance is to be put with normal kids, a good chance they will be mean enough to motivate it in the right direction.


Mar-05-13 6:03 AM

Boys are more apt to be physically cruel to that kid in middle school than girls are, though verbal teasing is likelier with them. If the kid takes hormones and never goes through puberty he'll look and act pretty girlish. if a sex change operation is the ultimate goal it's probably better for him to be treated as much like a girl all the way along. But if it were my kid I'd try every possible avenue before allowing something like that. Maybe these parents have.


Mar-05-13 1:11 AM

At the same time, protect him from the girls. All girls are not sugar and spice and everything nice.


Mar-05-13 1:00 AM

He may think he is a girl, but by physical anatomy known throughout genrations from time eternal, he is a boy. Try to explain that to a girl. The whole world does not adjust for him, he adjusts for the world.


Mar-05-13 12:09 AM

What are you protecting them from, though? The whole point is that the kid feels like a girl in a boy's body. He likely wouldn't react to girls in a locker room like a boy.


Mar-04-13 11:18 PM

I quickly perused the posts, but didn't see the 'yuck' quote. If he/she is awarded a curtain for gym class, then everyone should get a curtain. Who is going to pay for that? I think the parents of the child demanding special treatment should. As a mother of three girls, I wouldn't want a boy changing in the locker room nor using the rest room. We have the responsibility of protecting our children.


Mar-04-13 3:25 PM

I don't think there's an easy answer there, but I also don't think the "Yuck. He's sick in the head" reaction is necessarily helpful either.

Let's say this kid continues to wear girl's clothes and be addressed as a girl at home and at school and, at 11 or 12, starts taking hormone blockers so he never goes through male puberty. For all intents and purposes he feels like and acts like and is treated like a girl. Girls' bathrooms have stalls and presumably some arrangements could be made for a curtain in the changing area in the locker room. Is that situation really going to hurt anyone? It might be more problematic if it were a transgender boy who wanted to use the boy's bathroom, but that situation is happening too in schools in the U.S. and Canada.

At the moment the family IS homeschooling their kids while they're pursuing a lawsuit.


Mar-04-13 1:08 PM

So, when he is 14, you would want him/her to use the girl's BR, not the teacher/s BR? The 14 y/o girls have RIGHTS, too. The school was offering a viable option for a strange situation.


Mar-04-13 12:12 PM

What if this child's brain actually IS female inside a male body? I'm not sure how you force a child like that to act like a boy without thoroughly screwing him up psychologically.

I don't find it outside the realm of possibility that a brain defect of this sort could occur. One article said it could range from 1 in 1,000 births to 1 in 30,000. Therapeutic approaches differ. A psychiatrist in Toronto treats gender-dysphoric kids by trying to make them more comfortable in their bodies and telling parents not to let a transgender boy play with toys meant for girls, dress in girlish clothing or play with little girls. It's the same type of approach they tried in the 50s or 60s with kids they were afraid might become homosexual. The result seems to have been lots of unhappy little boys who still grew up to be gay or transsexual -- just more maladjusted than they would have been otherwise.


Mar-03-13 8:33 AM

A fair solution for Coy has to also be fair to who is not Coy. I say throw him/her into regular society and maybe it will help with the confusion in the brain.


Mar-02-13 9:00 PM

The only way to insure a sarcastic reading of your post is to use the word "sarcasm" with it. I've seen many people do something like the following...

Well, isn't this a wonderful issue to be discussing (sarcasm)


Mar-02-13 6:31 PM

And yes, I also posted under ang3Rland. Didn't meant to, and wasn't trying to fool anyone. Created the account a long time ago and forgot about it. Then I logged in on a different computer, and used the wrong email address.


Mar-02-13 6:29 PM

Ok, I'd push this a little further, but frankly it scares me that some of you are taking me a little too seriously. Am I that bad at sarcasm?

So here's the official rant: Are you freaking kidding me!?! The kid is 6 years old! Gender issues? It just proves our world is going to hell.


Mar-02-13 12:36 PM

coy /koi/ Adjective(esp. of a woman) Making a pretense of shyness or modesty that is intended to be alluring but is often regarded as irritating. Reluctant to give details, esp. about something regarded as sensitive. Synonyms- bashful - shy - timid - shamefaced - modest - demure. They must not have cared what it meant.


Mar-02-13 11:31 AM

I don't know what Coy means but Coy was one of the male cousins on The Dukes of Hazard years ago. It sounds like a cowboy/rodeo name to me. I did work with a woman named Coya years ago.


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