HCS board chairman comments on federal letter about transgender bathroom use

HCS board chairman comments on federal letter about transgender bathroom use

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The departments of Education and Justice sent letters to all public school districts, including Horry County Schools and Florence School District One, detailing protections for transgender students under Title IX.

"To me, it just seems like a power grab," said HCS Board of Education Chairman Joe DeFeo.

DeFeo said the letter won't change any procedures in the school district. He added accommodations for transgender students will continue to be handled on a case-by-case basis, which was the conclusion of a special-called meeting Monday after DeFeo said the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay in the case.

The board is now waiting on guidance from the courts, according to DeFeo

"It's in the Fourth Circuit right now," he said. "They have rulings over us and we'll do whatever it is that the courts say for us to do."

White House Press Secretary John Earnest said the departments have received requests for guidance from school administrators around the country, which is the reasoning behind the letters.

DeFeo believes all students, including transgender students, are protected in HCS. He said privacy and discrimination complaints can come from both sides when they involve bathrooms.

"There's nothing we can do to guarantee we're not going to get sued," he said.

Title IX compliance, which includes gender discrimination according to the departments of Education and Justice, dictates federal funding.

In FY2014-2015, Horry County Schools received more than $42,078,648 in federal money for the general fund. A tax increase of 28 mills, or the equivalent of $2,800 for every $100,000 of property, would be needed to make up for that loss.

That millage increase would affect property taxed at 6 percent, which are businesses, second homes, land, vehicles, boats, etc., HCS Spokesperson Teal Britton said.

"If it were up to me personally, I'd take the 30 mills and tell the federal government, 'We don't want your money, stay away,'" DeFeo said. "Because they do more to interfere and interrupt education than they do to help it."

DeFeo said refusing federal funds is not an idea anyone else on the school board has advocated for and it would likely have to be put up for referendum.

The school board's stance now is to await a court decision, he said.

Britton said Horry County Schools does not have a statement to release regarding the letter.

Jeff Ayers, executive director of SC Equality, said the guidance from the Obama administration is a very good sign as the directions are clear cut in showing how the federal government will hold school districts accountable.

SC Equality plans to continue to keep an eye on Horry County Schools for possible violations.

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