HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Following her transgender son's suspension from Socastee High School for using the boys' bathroom, the student's mother has opted to put him in online school.
That means the student, identified as "R," won't get to walk across a stage at the end of his senior year and get his diploma.
"That's a huge thing for teenagers to take that walk and he's not going to get to do that," said the mother, identified as Lynne.
On Thursday, a letter from the Transgender Law Center was sent to Horry County Schools, warning that the district would face legal action if transgender students were not allowed to use the restroom that matches the gender they live as daily.
Lynne said her son had been using the boys' bathroom at Socastee High for more than three years. Then, in October, he was told to use the girl's bathroom or go to the nurse's office. R felt uncomfortable with both of those options. He was suspended in January for using the boy's bathroom.
"Just let them use the bathroom and don't bother them," Lynne said. "Don't harass them. Don't single them out. Just let them do what they do every day so they can focus on what they're in school for, which is to learn."
Lynne said she's worried about other transgender students still in the school district. She wants to see a policy passed to ensure they can use the bathroom they identify with.
She added she would prefer not to have to file a lawsuit against the school district.
"A lawsuit is a big deal. I just hate to go that route," Lynne said. "I'd just rather sit down at a table and negotiate."
But that is one of the potential routes the family can choose if the school district doesn't pass an overarching policy. However, Horry County School Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said he thinks the school district has handled all transgender cases appropriately by accommodating the individual needs of students.
"The truth of the matter is there's been very little conflict with it over the years," DeFeo said. "We do have transgender students and I don't see it as a major problem. But somebody else might."
DeFeo said the school district also has to keep other students in mind.
The Transgender Law Center said transgender students don't need special accommodations; they need to be treated like all other students.
If the Transgender Law Center does not receive confirmation of the school district's efforts to ensure transgender students can use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity by April 27, one of the lawyers on the case told WMBF News they could file a complaint with the Department of Education under Title IX, or file a lawsuit in federal court. They could decide to do both simultaneously. Those options are still being weighed.
Under a recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Title IX applies to gender discrimination and transgender bathroom use rights.
On Tuesday, Horry County Schools released the following statement: "The District maintains the privacy of all of its students. The District seeks to accommodate the individual needs of its transgender students in compliance with the law, including Title IX. We will continue our efforts to ensure a welcoming school environment for all students."