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LGBTQ supporters thank Pasco school officials for holding firm on transgender rights

The School Board has faced growing crowds taking sides on the subject since the fall.
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
Published Feb. 4

For weeks, the Pasco County school district has faced blistering criticism for its policies and procedures involving transgender students.

Conservative online media have run stories with eye-catching headlines like “School Punishes Male Teacher For Refusing To Watch A Naked Girl In The Boys’ Locker Room,” which in turn has generated more outrage and growing crowds at Pasco School Board meetings. Critics have demanded the district adopt several policy changes, including a requirement that students use restrooms and locker rooms only according to their birth certificate gender.

Related coverage: Critics seek Hillsborough transgender-rights rules for Pasco schools

Board members have offered no indication that they intend to change the district’s anti-harassment rules — though some are considering whether to create some sort of requested parental permission slip for club participation. They’ve stood mostly silent as the administration has defended existing practices and the underlying policy, saying they must protect all student rights.

And that stance is now winning support among a growing number of people who aim to counteract the message of the church groups and others who have vowed not to go away until they see change.

In recent days, the superintendent and board members have seen a rise in correspondence backing the district’s position.

“Thank you, and the Pasco County Public School District, for your leadership in ensuring that LGBTQ young people are treated equitably and with respect,” wrote Nina Borders of Port Richey. “Our transgender young people are some of the most vulnerable and they need your leadership and support the most.”

Elaine Togneri, president of Pasco County’s NOW chapter, praised the officials from working to prevent children from harm.

“We know public pressure is difficult especially from those who may not respect the right of an individual’s autonomy,” she wrote, “but laws are made for a reason, so that each person is treated with respect.”

One recent high school graduate wrote of her brother, a transgender student who attends a local middle school. She said she does not worry about her brother specifically because of the support he has found at school, and thanked the leadership for not giving in to the pressure to alter its approach to LGBTQ students.

Board members anticipate the debate will continue at their meetings, even though the subject does not appear on any action agenda. They plan to discuss how to allow voices to continue being heard, when they meet again Tuesday.

Related coverage: Pasco School Board to discuss public commenting rules

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