By Xavier Smith
Tennessee’s education commissioner recently said she believed school bathroom policies are best handled at the local level, aligning with Wilson County’s director of schools on the issue.
Commissioner Candice McQueen sent a memo to local school districts earlier this week and discussed federal versus local oversight on bathroom policies in school districts.
Last month, President Donald Trump’s administration revoked guidance to public schools that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Trump argued states and public schools officials should have the authority to make their own decisions regarding transgender students and their access to restrooms and locker rooms.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration issued the guidance in May.
“As I stated in May, we believe decisions on these types of issues should continue to be made at the local level on a case-by-case basis considering the unique needs of all students and how to ensure their safety and protection,” McQueen said.
McQueen said when the guidance was issued, it created a number of questions at the local level.
“We are confident local school districts are in the best position to appropriately and responsibly respect the rights and concerns of transgender students and others,” McQueen said.
Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright shared similar sentiments earlier this week regarding the proposed “bathroom bill” making its way through the Tennessee legislature.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, was recently assigned to the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee for next week. The bill would require students in state high schools and colleges to use restrooms and locker room facilities that align with the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.
Wright said she believed local districts know what’s best for students regarding the issue.
“It’s not an issue for us. We take care of our kids,” said Wright, who said the district is sensitive to student needs, as well as parent and guardian concerns.
Wright said schools feature a single-stall, gender-neutral restroom that any student who feels it’s necessary is allowed to use.
Wright said the district is sensitive to all needs, including those that may fall outside of transgender students. She said she believed the legislation is unnecessary. She also cited oversight difficulties as reason for opposition.
“It becomes sort of farfetched to monitor, because we simply don’t have the personnel. We don’t want to get into policing bathrooms,” Wright said.
“Our objective is to make sure no child is discriminated against or victimized by whatever life circumstance they may face. We take that very seriously.”
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally also said the legislation is not needed following the Trump administration’s reversal. McNally said he believed local districts handling cases on an individual basis would be best.