The Sarasota County School Board released a new set of gender guidelines that will allow transgender students to use the restroom that corresponds to their preferred gender identity and names. This decision came after years of back and forth on the best course of action.
The issue first came up in Sarasota in 2016, when a transgender student at Pine View School was denied requests to use the male bathroom. Nate Quinn, then 17, organized a call-in to the school to protest, gaining support from both students and alumni, and pushed Pine View to change its policy.
Since January 2016, some Sarasota students and community members have been urging the school district to make a blanket policy rather than operating on a case-by-case basis. People have spoken at school board meetings and many events have been organized in an attempt to get board members to make a change.
Now, Sarasota County principals and administrators will have a set of guidelines to follow. A statement from the school board said they are doing this to protect transgender students.
Jane Goodwin, Vice Chair of the Sarasota County School Board, says she has been fighting for this for years. However, some of her colleagues do not agree with releasing the guidelines to schools without a discussion.
“I don't need to discuss this at the table at the school district,” Goodwin said. “We need to take care of all students. We need to rally around our students and make sure they are not bullied.”
Goodwin added that because the newly issued guidelines are not a policy change, the school superintendent, Todd Bowden, doesn't have to bring it to the board for a vote.
Goodwin said the guidelines were sent to her and the other members on Friday as a courtesy. She was in favor of them, and said she reflects the majority of the board.
“We're very happy that it will be released so that everyone will be educated and will be working along the same procedures and guidelines,” Goodwin said.
The guidelines were sent to Sarasota County schools Wednesday afternoon.
“We all have an obligation to ensure our children are treated with respect,” Bowden said in a statement. “These guidelines offer a thoughtful approach to accomplish this goal.”
Each school will have at least one universal/single stall bathroom, but no student will be forced to use it. They can use whichever bathroom matches their preferred gender identity.
Transgender students will be addressed by the names and pronouns requested, even if they do not match official records.
The guidelines state: "It is up to the student, and the student alone, to share her/his/their identity. In the case of elementary-age students, often the student and parent are involved, however, this is on a case by case basis."
In a Facebook post, School Board member Bridget Ziegler said "even more egregious is the school district cutting parents out of the gender discussion with their children."
In addition to restrooms, the guidelines also address locker rooms, extra-curricular activities and dress code. You can find out more about those guidelines on the Sarasota County School Board’s website.