HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Horry County School District is affirming a commitment to protecting transgender students from discrimination.
This affirmation comes after the Transgender Law Center threatened legal action against the district if it didn't reverse its policy regarding which bathroom a transgender student can use.
A letter sent to the district from the law center last week followed a transgender male senior's suspension from Socastee High School for using the boys' restroom.
Following his suspension, the boy's mother opted to put him in online school.
According to a press release sent by the Transgender Law Center on Thursday, students in Horry County schools can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
"We are so grateful and excited about this outcome, and that my son might now be able to walk across the stage and graduate with his class," said Lynne, the student's mother. "While this doesn't erase the harm done to my son, it means a lot to us that no other student in the district will have to go through what my son went through."
Horry County School Board Chairman Joe DeFeo said the district is following a recent Fourth Circuit Court ruling to include gender identity and transgender bathroom use in Title IX.
"Horry County Schools has not written new policy or reversed existing policy," said district spokesperson Teal Britton said via email. "We are committed to being compliant with laws that protect the rights of all students."
On Friday, the district released the following statement:
Statement on transgender/Title IX issue
Horry County Schools has received much media attention recently as part of the national discussion about transgender students, and we want to share information that will hopefully provide an accurate account and perspective on the decision involving our schools and students.
First, our school employees have an obligation to make every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of each and every student under our watch. We also are bound to uphold the laws of our nation and our state. Some of those laws are easy to build consensus around: for example, our school buses will obey the speed limit at all times. Other issues, like transgender, are more complex. However, we are still bound to uphold the law. We, as professionals, also must use our good judgment and review the facts on a case-by-case basis when making decisions impacting students.
We will not share the specifics of any individual decision involving students, but we do wish to set the record straight regarding transgender students and bathroom privileges in our schools.
Title IX is a federal law that schools have followed for years, more commonly regarding gender issues related to athletics. However, the law is broader than athletics, and recently a federal appeals court for the district that includes South Carolina used Title IX to issue a ruling that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom for the gender with which they associate. Title IX and that ruling apply to Horry County Schools and to all other schools in this federal district.
However, Horry County Schools has not changed the male and female bathroom policies for our students. We have merely determined that transgender students in our schools, along with parents, can request bathroom rights that align with the recent court ruling. Our school administrators, in order to comply with the law and consider the rights of individual students, will make decisions with those students and their parents that are both fair and legal.
Our schools, and those who lead them, understand that the safety of all students is paramount, and we will deal with any issue in which the safety and security of any student is in question. We understand that this is a very emotional issue for lots of reasons. We fully understand that all laws and decisions that follow are not universally popular. We must also have faith in the judgment of our administrators and teachers to comply with the law, ensure that all students are treated fairly, and to keep the safety of our students at the forefront every day.