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Gender-neutral solution?

Family | A Kansas City area school district’s solution to restroom privacy leaves unanswered questions about cost and safety
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 8/31/18, 05:39 pm

Two new Kansas City, Mo.–area elementary schools started classes this month with only one option for restrooms: gender neutral.

The restrooms at Rising Hill Elementary and Northview Elementary, both in the North Kansas City School District, have only individual restroom stalls, including floor-to-ceiling walls, lockable doors, and a common sink trough. The district renovated a few restrooms at North Kansas City High School and at two district sixth-grade centers to be gender neutral as well.

The district does not have a policy on transgender and gender-neutral restrooms, Rochel Daniels, the district’s executive director of organizational development, told The Kansas City Star. But she said the redesigned restrooms avoid discrimination and allow for more privacy, safety, and security.

Advocates agree, arguing the new restrooms are a good compromise—transgender advocates like the genderless labels, and parents worried about student safety can take comfort in floor-to-ceiling lockable doors.

But the solution is far from perfect, according to Autumn Leva, vice president of strategy for the Family Policy Alliance in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“If parents have to choose between men and boys being given access to their girls’ restrooms and this new design, they will choose North Kansas City’s design,” Leva told me. “However, this new design would certainly be costly for schools to implement, and it does not address the problem of privacy and safety in locker rooms for students.”

In 2016, the Obama administration issued guidance to public school districts directing them to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, arguing the Title IX sex discrimination law included gender identity. But in 2017, the U.S. Department of Education, under Secretary Betsy DeVos, withdrew the guidance.

Now schools are left to make restroom policies at the district level, and the battles have been fierce and the lawsuits plentiful.

Kirk Horner, the president of the architecture firm that handled the North Kansas City redesign, told the Star the idea of gender-neutral restrooms is spreading: Similar restrooms are going in at two Kansas City, Kan., middle schools, and he said they are in “high-level” discussions about redesigned restrooms with the Blue Valley School District, one of the largest districts in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

In addition to questions of safety in other areas of the school, like locker rooms and showers, the North Kansas City district has yet to address the question of student safety inside the restrooms. Anyone with an imagination is left wondering whether potentially unmonitored, private, locked rooms accessible to both genders are really a good idea. The simple beauty of single-gender restrooms with stalls is that they protect privacy without providing a place to skip class or make-out, much less use drugs and have sex.

YouTube/MassFamilyInstitute YouTube/MassFamilyInstitute Massachusetts Rep. Jim Lyons

How to defeat ‘absolute insanity’

A conservative Massachusetts lawmaker last month quashed a bill to add a third gender identity—“gender X”—to state driver’s licenses by taking the measure at face value. The bill had already easily passed the Senate, and was headed over to the House, where advocates assumed an easy win.

But two hours before the session’s midnight deadline, Republican Rep. Jim Lyons told the clerk he wanted to file 73 amendments to the bill, each proposing a different gender he said should also be added to state driver’s licenses. Lyons told me he got the list—which included genderqueer, gender questioning, gender variant, pangender, transmasculine, and cis female—from Facebook. He filed 35 amendments before the filing deadline. Per House rules, amendments are allotted 10 minutes of debate and three minutes for voting, so he had time on his side.

Lyons said an advocate for the bill approached him soon after, asking if they could come to an agreement that the House could go past the midnight deadline (allowed if no one objects). Lyons told the representative he would certainly object. The House still had a few measures they had to vote on and not enough time for the amended gender bill and the other bills. Seeing imminent defeat, House leadership withdrew the measure.

The tactic effectively highlighted the “absolute insanity of what they were trying to do,” Lyons said, noting it is an indisputable biological fact that humans are male or female. “To use driver’s licenses to promote a political agenda is not what we should be doing.”

“Rep. Lyons called their bluff and demonstrated where the logic of this uncoupling of identity from reality ultimately leads,” said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

When asked what kind of feedback he received from his House colleagues, Lyons said, “I can’t tell you how many Democrats came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Jim, thank you very much. I didn’t want to vote on that anyhow.’” —K.C.

Facebook Facebook Leia Pierce and her son Jamel Myles

More to the case

The tragic story of a Colorado 9-year-old who committed suicide last week has gone viral. News outlets were quick to report the suicide came weeks after Jamel Myles told his mother, Leia Pierce, that he was gay. Pierce said she believes her son committed suicide because of bullying at school over his coming out—Myles’ older sister told Pierce kids at school told him to kill himself.

While the facts in this case are still unclear (Denver Public Schools said it is conducting an investigation into allegations of bullying) there are things we can know about the three overlapping issues in this case: bullying, suicide, and sexual identity, according to Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians.

She said that while many children are bullied, only a small percentage commit suicide, and of all individuals who take their own life, 90 percent have a diagnosed mental disorder.

“So, tragically, this young boy, in addition to being bullied, likely struggled with major depression that went unrecognized, but could have been treated had it been diagnosed,” Cretella said, noting there is a great need to educate people about the warnings signs of childhood depression. She also pointed to a landmark 2002 study by researchers friendly toward LGBT advocacy that found children are not born gay, and that same-sex attractions, breaking sex stereotyped behaviors, and self-declaration in children do not mean they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

What some would want to paint as a simple story of a boy taking his life because of bullying for coming out as gay is very likely a more complex tragedy. —K.C.

Pot and breast milk

Amid rising rates of women using marijuana during pregnancy, a recent study found breastfeeding and pot are probably not a good combination. The study is small—after all, getting mothers to admit they use pot while breastfeeding is a hard ask, even in a country with a number of states offering legal recreational use.

The paper, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, studied 54 nursing mothers using pot while they breastfed. Researchers detected marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, in the breast milk of 34 women. THC is the chemical that gives marijuana users a “high.” The study’s authors said “it is reasonable to speculate” exposing infants to THC “could influence normal brain development,” depending on dose and timing.

Like so many other questions raised about marijuana and health risks amid legalization, the study authors said more research is needed. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

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  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 09/01/2018 06:20 am

    All our new social experiments come with unexpected price increases which we are only beginning to pay.  If we are determined to pursue our plans without God's control or influence the consequenses will be very expensive.  The monetry cost of new bathrooms is going to be a small expense as the other items addressed indicate. 

  •  Peter Allen's picture
    Peter Allen
    Posted: Sat, 09/01/2018 03:21 pm

    The gender nuetral bathrooms, like I have seen all over Europe for decades, are actually a good thing.  Floor-to-ceiling lockable doors keep gay males from peering down at the boy standing next to them at the stall.  And typically women need more bathrooms than men, yet they don't have that.  This opens them up for either.  A common wash area does not take away anyone's privacy any more than a common drinking fountain.  The expense is worth it.  

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Wed, 09/05/2018 01:25 am

    Progressivism is a war on tradition, whether good or right or true.  It is a kind of gnostic religion declaring all things bad except for the latest thing.  Its tenants deny the obvious, including scientific fact in the name of the faith.  Its goal is to create heaven on earth, without God.  Those outside the faith are heretics who must be destroyed.  The most amazing thing about this religion is the reluctance of anyone, even Christians to challenge it.  This kind of moral terrorism is what the world has to look forward to in these latter days.