HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A transgender male student said he was suspended from Socastee High School after using the boy's bathroom.
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has known he's identified as a boy and not as a girl most of his life.
When he started transitioning in middle school, female students complained about a boy being in the girl's bathroom.
The student and his family met with school administrators at Forestbrook Middle School and all decided he should use the boy's bathroom because that would be the most comfortable option for everyone.
For three years, he used the boy's bathroom at Socastee High School. One day in the fall semester, he said a male teacher was walking out of the boy's bathroom when he was headed in.
"He must've looked at his records and saw the sex on his records because that's the only way he could've known," the student's mother said.
The next day, the student said administrators called him into the office and told him he could either use the girl's bathroom or go to the nurse's office.
His mother said most people don't know her son is transgender and consider him a boy.
"If he started using the girl's bathroom in 12th grade, it's going to create a problem," she said. "I felt like that would be dangerous."
As for the nurse's office, she said it's out of the way of his classes
"The nurse's office is downstairs on the first floor of the school and the school has three stories," she said.
He tried avoiding the bathroom altogether.
"He was holding it. He was trying not to go and all of that's unhealthy," the mother said.
She told her son to keep using the boy's bathroom.
Two weeks ago, he left an assembly to use the bathroom and passed teachers along the way. Although a teacher asked him to use the closest bathroom, he said it was dirty and went to the next one. He said the teacher followed him. He used the boy's bathroom. The next day he was suspended from school for a day.
"They did not give me a copy of the write up," his mother said. "They did not talk to me."
The student is now enrolled in an online school. While he can study and go to the bathroom freely at home, his mom said he's missing out on everything else school offers.
"He had to stop drama," his mother said. "He had to drop out of the play he was doing."
His mom worries about this happening to other transgender students in Horry County Schools.
"Let the transgender kids be themselves," she said. "Let them be safe and let them be comfortable. Let them have their education in an environment where they are not harassed or felt to be unsafe."
A spokesperson for Horry County Schools said the district doesn't have a specific policy on bathroom usage for transgender students, but will make accommodations based on individual needs and schools.
The student's mother said Socastee High School administrators would not cooperate with her on a plan for the student's bathroom use and said the principal told her mother, the student's grandmother, the student needed a doctor's note to work through the issue.
The student's mother said the Department of Education told her in an email bathroom usage is covered under Title IX, but the school district spokesperson said it depends on the circumstances.
The Department of Education said Title IX covers sex discrimination for all LGBTQ students and several court cases have settled in favor of transgender students who had been denied access to bathrooms and locker rooms with which they identify.
"I think it's singling us out," said Lisa Larson, a transgender woman who lives in Myrtle Beach. "It is separating us from the masses and really and truly most of us, we just don't even want to be known."
Larson emphasized gender identity is solely about gender and not about sex. She also pointed out it's not a choice.
"Dysphoria is crippling and people don't understand that," she said. "I don't know what I can do to make people understand what it's like."