CSD’s transgender policy sparks debate


Adelaide Taylor

A City Schools of Decatur (CSD) Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10, discussing CSD’s transgender bathroom policy, sparked debate over transparency and child safety, ending with the decision for more discussion.

The policy currently allows transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their chosen gender. Enacted in July 2016 under guidelines from the Obama administration, It was unchallenged until September (2017). Then, an attorney representing five Decatur residents came to the Board of Education with a petition containing over 100 signatures to change the policy because they believe the policy hurts the privacy rights of other students.

The room was packed, and around 70 people signed up to speak during the session’s ‘open talk.’ Children and mothers handed out a variety of buttons, saying “support trans youth,” “straight but not narrow,” and “more love less hate.”

Most of the speakers supported the current policy. Decatur High School counselor Ken Jackson spoke about his experiences with Decatur’s trans youth, including saying students had made themselves physically ill before the policy because they did not feel comfortable using the bathroom.

Transgender students who came to speak at the meeting included River Rawle, a Decatur sophomore. When he first came out at Renfroe, he said, some students referred to him as “it,” instead of he/him pronouns that Rawle prefers. Maddy Jean opened her time saying “Despite what some people say, I am a real girl.” She was met with laughter and some applause from the room.

Chairs were quickly filled leaving many standing.

Many parents applauded CSD’s teachers and staff for creating a welcoming environment for all different kids.

One mother said her son, who attends College Heights, wanted to wear a red velvet dress to school. Mr. Fen, the child’s preschool teacher, took the initiative to read the class a book about boys in dresses.

“Now,” she said, “My son is comfortable wearing dresses and Giant’s jerseys, and I have more of a problem with the Giant’s jersey.”

Another parent said because of Decatur, when her child, Sage Payman wished to transition, DHS immediately helped enter his new name and pronouns in the system, and they welcomed him to use the bathroom he felt most comfortable in.

“At school, we need to be able to focus on learning, nothing else,” Payman said.

Linda and Leslie Ellis, known for their outspoken support of Decatur’s lgbtq+ family, delivered a book with more than 680 pledges of support for trans students from Decatur residents. They put out the call to neighbors only a week prior.

Cheryl Nahmias, the IB Coordinator for DHS, told the story of one of her former students. “At Renfroe, Noah was known as Annie. No matter his success, he seemed perpetually sad,” Nahmias said. “High school Noah was bright and confident. The physical changes mattered the least to me.” She encouraged students and staff to support trans students.

The main opponents of the policy, the Majors, argued that the policy caused them to fear for the safety of their children.

Gina Major moved to Decatur for the diversity. “We are petitioning for privacy and safety for our students. As a parent, I have the right to teach my children about the opposite sex when I see fit,” Major said.

Garland Hunt, an Atlanta lawyer and pastor, agreed. “I believe it is preposterous to even consider allowing a biological male to threaten a female. A child should not be forced to exposed to confusion about their gender,” Hunt said.

“The issue of biological males on female teams has not been an issue at Decatur,” others argued. “The problem will be dealt with when and if it becomes a problem.”

Mark Major supported Gina in saying that it was his job to teach his daughters, and due to his religion, he did not believe in the trans way of living.

The Majors were represented by lawyer Bernadette Broyles. She supports the 2006 board decision to adopt a gender identity non-discriminatory policy. However, she does not support the 2016 policy based on the fact that it was based on federal policy that was rescinded.

The meeting finished with the statements from Board members.

Bernadette J. Seals said she appreciated the respect of both sides. ”The one theme I’ve heard tonight is that we all care about our children. No matter if our views are different, we all just want what’s best for our kids,” Seals said.

Agreeing with her was Tasha White. “If there is a group of students that doesn’t feel respected and safe, we are not doing our job.”