12 February 2016

A Plea for Privacy

As many of you are parents of Poway Unified School District students, I thought this might be of interest.  As some of you are surely aware, recently some parents have expressed concerns about the fact that a transgender student is using the boys’ locker room at Rancho Bernardo High School.  This topic drew many parents, students, and community members to the school board meeting earlier this week.  Those who didn’t have a chance to speak at the meeting were encouraged to contact board member, Dr. Mel Robertson, at mrobertson@powayusd.com; and Superintendant, Dr. John Collins, at jcollins@powayusd.com.  So for those parents who were not able to attend the meeting, and would like to stay informed, I am including my letter that I sent to the school board members below.  I am hopeful that students and adults can show love and tolerance for one another, and can find solutions that will allow all students to feel comfortable, safe, and respected.


Dear Dr. Robertson & PUSD Board Members,

I am the mother of 5 PUSD students (and a PUSD alumni myself). My husband and I attended the school board meeting last night.  I filled out a speaker card, but unfortunately was not one of the first 10 speakers on the topic of the locker rooms, so I wasn't able to speak last night. 

I am glad that we attended the meeting, and got to hear voices from different sides of this sensitive topic.  When one man spoke about the suicides of 3 different transgender teens in North County San Diego last year, my heart went out to those children, their families, and their friends, and all that they have gone through. I was brought to tears at the meeting, thinking of those families, and thinking of the many other children and families who continue to deal with such difficult circumstances. 

I can think of a variety of valid reasons why many students may prefer privacy when they need to change clothing at school, regardless of gender or gender identity. For example, one of my children has a minor medical condition that will likely cause him to want privacy when changing.  I recently became aware that at Del Norte High School all freshman are required to take a swim PE class, which means more students will necessarily be stripping completely when they change their clothing, and more students will be showering on campus (which may not always be the case in some other types of PE classes). I know that even as an adult, I would not be comfortable stripping down entirely to change my clothing in front of my peers, regardless of gender.  And I know that many other people share these same feelings. Some people just prefer privacy.  And many people practice personal modesty as a religious observance or cultural custom.  No person, regardless of age, should be required to undress publicly, and all people should be allowed the basic right to undress in private if they prefer to do so.  We need to be sensitive to the needs, beliefs, and feelings of ALL students!  

Some have suggested that separate locker and restroom facilities should be created for students based on gender identity, and I do not believe that this is the answer. I am afraid that this may lead to discrimination. (And on the practical side, it would be very expensive to build additional facilities at each of the middle schools and high schools in the district). 

Personally, I am grateful that my children currently attend Design39Campus, where they do not use locker rooms. The students just choose to dress appropriately on days when they have PE classes. And they wash their clothes and shower at home. So my middle school children are not yet faced with having to change clothing at school. 

But the majority of PUSD middle schools and high schools do have locker rooms, and do require students to change into PE clothes. So I ask, Why not install some individual changing booths with lockers in them, to allow privacy for ALL students who would prefer privacy?  Or if individual changing booths are too cost prohibitive, then at least the schools could provide curtains for the students who want privacy. (As a former Bernardo Heights Middle School and Rancho Bernardo High School student myself, I know that I would have appreciated such privacy measures when I was a student). 

At the meeting last night, one of the first speakers mentioned that the transgender student in question at RBHS has been changing in a private changing stall. When I heard that, I was pleased to think that RBHS had installed some private changing booths since I was a student there. But a subsequent speaker at last night's meeting revealed that the transgender student had actually resorted to changing in a toilet stall, and that all the students have to wait to use one of only 3 toilet stalls in that locker room.  If this is an accurate description of the situation, this is unacceptable. By law, students of any gender or gender identity are now allowed to change in the public school locker room of the gender that they identify with. But if any student, regardless of gender or gender identity, chooses to change in a private location, they should not have to resort to crouching over a toilet to do so. It is my firm belief that any person who wants the basic right of undressing in private should be allowed that right.  I urge PUSD to take quick action to protect the privacy of all students.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and the consideration of the entire school board as you devote your time to safeguard the well being of all of our children.  

Stephanie Bradshaw

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