FLORENCE, CO, October 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A high school in the Colorado Springs area has been plunged into controversy after a male student who says he is “transgender” was permitted to use the girls’ restroom facilities, and was subsequently accused of harassment – a claim that has been denied by the school.
Last week, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) wrote a letter of warning to Florence High School on behalf of an undisclosed number of female students and their families who have alleged harassment.
“This is a nightmare scenario for the teenage girls—some of them freshmen—and their parents at this school,” PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds said in a statement. “This is exactly the kind of horror story we have been warning would accompany the push for radical transgender rights in schools, and it is the type of situation that LGBT activists have been insisting would not happen.”
According to PJI, when girls at the school complained about the alleged harassment, they were told that state law was on the boy's side – in 2008, Colorado passed a sweeping anti-discrimination law which banned all discrimination based on “sexual orientation.”
PJI said the girls were warned that if they continued to speak out against the boy's presence in their restrooms, they could face punishment including being removed from the school’s athletic teams or even charged with hate crimes. The group also claims the girls were told that if they didn’t like sharing a bathroom with the boy, they could simply refrain from using those facilities at all.
However, after the story hit news outlets around the world, transgender activists cried foul, arguing that the only basis for the story was the original press release by PJI announcing they had sent the letter, and that when one of them called school superintendent Rhonda Vendetti to investigate the situation, the superintendent claimed there had been no harassment.
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“Nothing has actually been verified,” Vendetti told the Transadvocate website in a phone interview. “This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren’t getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself.”
Added Vendetti, “We do have a transgender student at the high school and [he] has been using the women’s restroom, [but] there has not been an incident of harassment or anything that would cause any additional concern.”
But McReynolds has disputed Vendetti’s version of events. “We’re standing by our allegations that our student clients have been threatened with retaliation by school officials for talking about this, including being kicked off athletic teams,” he told National Review on Wednesday. “[School officials] have also thrown around the notion that hate crimes could be charged against students just for talking about this.”
McReynolds told National Review that “the core issue is that this school is giving this transgender youth full access to both boys’ and girls’ facilities, and they are showing little if any regard for the privacy rights of other students.” He added, “We have received additional reports of specific, inappropriate statements made by this student, and we are working to corroborate those reports.”
PJI’s letter urged school officials not to sacrifice the girls’ privacy and free speech rights to the whims of a single student, who, according to PJI, uses both the boys’ and girls’ facilities at will, and has not been asked by the school to choose a single, consistent sex.
“PJI is demanding assurances from the school that privacy and expressive rights will be protected and any accommodations will not involve the girls giving up access to most of their restrooms, as has previously been suggested by the school,” the group said in a statement.