Indiana schools, Gov. Pence react to Obama administration’s directive on transgender access to school bathrooms

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Happening today, school districts across the country will receive guidance from the Obama administration about transgender students.

Schools will be directed to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching the gender they identify with.

This isn’t a law, but if schools don’t comply they could face lawsuits and lose federal funding.

The Obama administration said this will ensure kids “attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.”

It will override state laws like North Carolina’s proposal to force transgender students to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence issued the following statement:

"I have long believed that education is a state and local function. Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC. The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature. I am confident that parents, teachers and administrators will continue to resolve these matters without federal mandates and in a manner that reflects the common sense and compassion of our state."

In response, we received a statement from the Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality:

“…some legislators and anti-trans extremists have been encouraging schools to deny transgender students basic educational opportunities by preying on baseless fears.. That’s why transgender young people, their families, and their schools have so desperately needed this guidance from the federal government.”

You can read the entire joint-letter from the Obama administration and the Departments of Education and Justice here.

The following schools released statements to FOX59 regarding the guidance from the Obama administration.

Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Terry Thompson, Anderson, Indiana

“ACSC is conducting a faclities assessment as well as an assessment of whether this is a binding statement.  At this time there are no changes in our practice or policy.  ACSC will continue to honor those based on their biological birth.”

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Indianapolis

"Indianapolis Public Schools believes no student should feel unwelcome on their own campus; this philosophy was echoed by our national leaders in the U.S. Department of Education this week. As gender identity can be a delicate topic for students, families and staff, district leadership will continue thoughtful efforts to serve our students with sensitivity and fairness. We currently implement solutions on a case-by-case basis to ensure the rights and safety of all students are protected, and we will tailor our efforts as needed to address the directives of the U.S. Department of Education. The wellbeing of our students is paramount, and IPS will certainly follow the guidance of our national and state leadership."

MSD of Wayne Township Superintendent Mary Lang, Indianapolis

"We are still awaiting the letter from President Obama regarding use of school bathrooms by transgender students. When we receive it we will certainly study it carefully and consider its implications for our district. It is our district policy that decisions regarding students and staff are made free from consideration of factors such as gender identification."

MSD of Pike Township Director of Human Resources Joe Lampert, Indianapolis

“We have not yet received any official documentation regarding the announcement regarding rights of transgender students and bathrooms.  We will study it once received but in Pike it is our policy and practice to protect the privacy rights of all students and to maintain a positive learning environment free from discrimination in all of our schools.”

Community Montessori Superintendent Barbara Burke Fondren , New Albany, Indiana

“Our school has always had non gender bathrooms, partly for this purpose.  We agree that there should be no discrimination for all - including our LGBT community!”

Washington Township Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikki Woodson, Indianapolis

“We are seeking counsel as to the binding impact of the situation as we await the “Dear Colleague” letter from the US Dept. of Education with the precise mandates that would be set forth.”

Union-North United School Corporation Superintendent Mitchell Mawhorter, Lakeville, Indiana

“I have no comment at this point.”

Tri-Township Consolidated School Corporation Superintendent Tim Somers, Wanatah, Indiana

“I'm sorry but I am not familiar with his comment.  No comment.”

Hammond Academy of Science and Technology Superintendent Sean Egan, Hammond, Indiana

 “Not aware of the the Obama stance. We reallly aren't worried at our school.  Students celebrate diversity and each other.   Transgender identity and bathroom use is not something that will drastically alter our landscape.”

College Corner Joint School District Superintendent Dr. Zach Rozelle, Liberty, Indiana

 “Another example of government / politicians using the public schools to promote their own political agenda – little to no regard for the real impact on the right to privacy / security for all children.”

Enlace Academy Founding School Leader Kevin Kubacki, Indianapolis

“I have no comment on this issue.”

Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin, Greenfield, IN

“We are still trying to make sense out of the President's expectation. I've read the headline, and I have heard a short audio blurb on the matter. I need to see the actual verbiage that the President intends to sign. Regretfully, I do not have much of a comment on this topic yet.”

Bremen Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim White, Bremen, Indiana

“You are definitely on top of this issue as schools have yet to officially receive the correspondence from the President’s Office.  Regardless, I can tell you that Bremen Public Schools is committed to the protecting the rights of all students regardless of race, religion, gender or any other characteristic which can be used to categorize our population.  As such, we will make every reasonable effort to comply with the spirit of the directive while continuing to be sensitive to all perspectives regarding this delicate topic.”

Eastern Howard School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Terry Caddell, Greentown, Indiana

“I will reserve comment until the guidance from the Department of Education comes out and we have a chance to review their suggestions for full implementation.”

Monroe County Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Judith DeMuth, Bloomington, Indiana

“The more knowledge and education all school corporations have, the better schools can serve all students and ensure their well-being. We have been fortunate in Bloomington to have a proactive school board and community who work diligently to provide for the needs of every student. The MCCSC is hopeful that the guidance in this communication will benefit our students.”

Fort Wayne Community Schools, Fort Wayne, Indiana

“At Fort Wayne Community Schools, we are committed to maintaining a safe learning environment for all students. When working with transgender students, there are delicate issues regarding privacy that we strive to maintain, particularly as we are dealing with minors. We don’t want to engage in controversy; rather, we address each individual situation. Our goal is always to do what it right for our students without violating privacy rights.”

Seymour Community Schools Superintendent Robert Hooker, Seymour, Indiana

“There is no case law that gives the federal government the power to force all schools here in Indiana (public, private, charter, and parochial) to provide transgender bathrooms.

President Obama has no legal ‘power’ to force his demands on our school children.

Congress has not acted nor have the courts made any final rulings on these matters. Indiana is under the jurisdiction of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals... so the fight in North Carolina has no effect on Indiana as North Carolina is under the ‘sway’ of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Title IX rules do not mention ‘transgender’ in its wording. If it determined that is ‘implied’ by a court, then it may end the practice of separate, but equal boys and girls sports at the high school and college levels.

Here in Seymour... we prefer to focus on student learning (academics) and curriculum (what we teach). We treat all our children equally and fairly every school day.

We wait on the Congress and the United States Supreme Court concerning this matter.”

Valparaiso Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. E. Ric Frataccia, Valparaiso, Indiana

“To my knowledge, we have not had a problem with transgender kids using our bathroom facilities. What we have done thus far is communicate to transgender kids that they should feel free to use the bathroom facilities in the nurse's station should they choose.  Frankly, I need to study the "Obama message" further to have a more fully adequate way of communicating its intent to our kids, public and educators. For example, the Obama message does indicate that " in Civil Rights cases a desire to accommodate the discomfort of others cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students to include transgender students." I do believe that there will be considerable discomfort experienced by persons using bathroom facilities when they may recognize that a person who used to be one gender is now another and henceforth is now using the bathroom of choice relative to their gender identity.  They are kids and they may be a bit more flexible than perhaps adults; however, I anticipate that the possibility of discomfort may evoke considerable pushback.  The Obama communication also touches ever so fleetingly a consequence installing stalls in bathrooms to purportedly enhance privacy and reduce discomfort in indicating that if we opt for individual stalls we must make them available to all students. Obviously the construction of stalls in places where they do not currently exist does not come about without some cost. Frankly, it is my assumption that this is yet another quasi-mandate that will not be accompanied by funding.  In summary, I do believe that we,in the Valparaiso Community School Corporation,  have adequately addressed this bathroom situation far antecedent to it becoming a national issue but I will be studying the situation more fully to ensure that we are compliant,  that our kids are ok and that and our practices are sound.  I wish that I could be more definitive about what we are going to do or to change, if anything, but in our school corporation and in our town we tend to discuss things prior to implementing a plan to confront a situation or resolve a conundrum.  Our school corporation is blessed to have  a very intuitive, active , knowledgeable and supportive community , School Board, student population, educators and City government . Therefore,  I fully anticipate that through our discussions and deliberations we will develop a plan that will be quite sound and compliant. ”