HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Horry County Schools Board of Education has decided to file a brief in support of a Virginia school district's appeal of the Title IX law currently requiring districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
While the board met privately in an executive session for about 40 minutes, dozens of community members with differing views on the subject debated the issue, at times yelling over each other's arguments, and at other times drowning out discussion by singing Christian hymns.
"I'm worried about the open door that this gave to all of the sick people out there," said Linda Bolton.
"We're all concerned about our children," said Melanie Moore. "They don't seem to understand that if the law is overturned then the transgender children will be at more risk than they already are."
The board returned and announced their decision on one resolution and one motion. First, they will continue to follow the Title IX law as it has been decided by allowing transgender students to use the bathroom they identify with, for the time being.
Second, the body decided to file an amicus brief in support of the Virginia district's legal challenge to Title IX in the Fourth District Court of Appeals to get it overturned.
The present board members voted unanimously on both the motion and the resolution.
"It's about conservative Christian values and beliefs and doing what is right for the majority," said Horry County Schools Board Member Jeffrey Garland during discussion of the motion.
Fellow board member Janet Graham said during the discussion that the main concern is the district's children, but she is concerned for transgender students.
"You got to stand up for what is right and what you believe in," Garland said when asked about the separation of church and state in relation to the issue. "I believe this court ruling goes against all ethics and morals and especially those you find in this community."
South Carolina Equality Executive Director Jeff Ayers traveled to Horry County for the meeting Monday. He said he would have liked to hear more from the school board members about how they're going to protect transgender students under Title IX.
"We're going to be watching Horry County very closely," Ayers said. "Our attorneys will. If we find that there's any instance where a student, their Title IX protection is being violated, then we will come back and address it with the school board."
GLAAD, a world LGBT media advocacy association, said the group has also been watching Horry County Schools' actions. Representatives said the organization and its partners are prepared to lead a national boycott of Myrtle Beach should the Horry County School Board take any action that would reverse the decision that has already been announced or perpetuate any further discrimination.
On Tuesday, Brad Dean, the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement: "The Myrtle Beach area has firmly established itself as a fun and welcoming destination for all visitors. Our beach destination has never experienced a boycott tied to restrooms or transgender issues. Because the questions being raised are about school board policy and complying with federal law, and not about Myrtle Beach area tourism or the business community, we don't anticipate any impact on tourism."
Ayers also said he doesn't believe the Title IX ruling will be overturned. He added an appeals court decision usually sets a precedent for other appeals courts. "We feel confident they will lose," he said.
Others at the meeting said they approve of the school board members' decision to file a brief for the appeal.
"I think we're moving in the right direction being that Horry County is going to try to appeal and work toward overturning some rulings," said Brandon Blair, who created a petition last week after Horry County Schools said it would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
He said the ruling risks the privacy of other students. He and others agree transgender students are the minority of students in the district.
The mother of the transgender student suspended from Socastee High School in January released the following statement after the school board meeting:
"We know that transgender kids face risks for all kinds of challenges in our society, from discrimination to violence, and as parents, we want to protect them," said the mother, identified as Lynne. "We know that the best thing we can do for our transgender kids is to accept them for who they really are. I am hopeful that the school board's decision today will go a long way toward that goal."
School board members told parents Monday their children could use the nurse's office bathroom if that makes them feel more comfortable.
Read the full resolution to uphold Title IX below: