In Virginia, a female high school student who chooses to identify as a male rejected the school’s offer to allow use of a single-person private restroom because that meant “you can’t use the restroom with the rest of the kids. I’m not unisex. The alternative facility was a unisex bathroom.“ Instead, the student sued the school district for the right to use any boys’ restroom, initially losing, but subsequently prevailing in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Apparently the issue was not access to a restroom, since the school provided that prior to the lawsuit, but the demand that the student be treated the same as all other students in the chosen gender, in this case, boys. Since the student identifies as a boy, the school must adjust such that the school experience of this one student is indistinguishable from that of any boy in the same class. The restroom is not the biggest issue, since this student probably uses a toilet in a stall anyway, but a bit of extrapolation quickly leads to ludicrous situations: participation in physical education classes, on sports teams, use of locker rooms and showers. If not this student, some other will try to push the boundaries in those areas.
The White House directive on the topic, issued May 13, states, “As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”
But there is a reasonable precedent, made obsolete by this directive, which now should be altered. Presumably, consistent with the refusal of the special restroom accommodation, and the president’s refusal to allow singling out of a particular class of students, the Virginia student will be willing to learn American Sign Language and attend classes conducted in ASL. After all, the U.S. incidence of deaf people communicating with ASL is about one per thousand, similar to the apparent incidence of transgender people. The deaf student is clearly singled out and disadvantaged in the current system, whereby schools provide interpreters, preferential seating and access to electronic assist devices. It is entirely consistent with the president’s directive and the Fourth Circuit ruling for a deaf student to demand that all students learn ASL, and that teachers teach in ASL.
Or, if all reason has not vanished from our society, perhaps the transgender student should be treated as the deaf student is now, recognizing the difference and providing accommodations such that the student is able to succeed in school, but not forcing 999 to change for the one who is different.
I write as a hearing man married to a deaf woman, with six hearing and two deaf children, who have attended a wide variety of schools.