School board responds to WHS bathroom concerns
The Waterloo school board shared another letter to the district Wednesday evening following protests, a school board meeting with plenty of public input and much talk in the community concerning transgender students’ use of restrooms at WHS.
The letter was signed by Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron and Waterloo School Board President Lori Dillenberger.
In the letter, Charron and Dillenberger opened by thanking the community for the substantial turnout to the March 20 regular school board, with over 100 individuals in attendance and 275 viewers on the Zoom video stream.
Responding to criticism received by the board’s lack of response following public comments at the meeting, the letter explained the board had not planned to offer its own comment until after the meeting – something the district’s legal representative had stated before the first speaker.
The letter adds that the board returned to closed session following the public portion of the meeting in order to discuss concerns expressed among the community.
Wednesday’s letter goes on to list three items currently receiving the board’s attention.
First among these is the possibility of changes to the current bathroom setup in the school district. The lack of privacy around urinals in the male bathroom was specifically mentioned as a concern, with requests pending for district architects to make proposals on developing gender neutral bathrooms.
Review and adjustment of district policy was also mentioned, with the board hoping to develop policy that, among other things, “recognizes the rights of all people, regardless of gender identity,” and “provides clarity to administrators, parents and students regarding gender issues in schools.”
Finally, the letter stated the board will be surveying parents, students and staff in order to better understand the issue and “pursue additional options that ensure safety and privacy in our school environment.”
The letter concluded by addressing concerns expressed about the district’s communication on the situation.
While, as the letter said, the district “believes that we’ve been open about transgender issues as we have navigated them over the past eight years,” it also offered a link to a Google Doc which features a Q&A for questions the district has received concerning transgender bathroom accommodations.
The document explains that the school district has offered such accommodations since 2017, and there currently exists a formal process by which the district recognized students as transgender and thus allows them to access these accommodations.
Specifically regarding student protests which took place Friday and Monday at WHS, the document explains that students were not disciplined for participating in the protests. They were marked tardy or absent from class but excused on Friday and not excused Monday.
The document also indicates that, at the time, harassment among students was seemingly one-sided amid the protests, with several reports made then by transgender students concerning “derogatory and harassing statements.”
No reports about transgender students harassing non-transgender students during the protest were received until Monday’s board meeting, and these allegations will be investigated.
The document, which the letter said will be updated as additional questions arise, can be found by clicking here.