By Melody Vallieu
TROY — Troy City Schools Superintendent Eric Herman said he is simply following the law by announcing the decision on Friday to offer gender-neutral restroom facilities in the district’s schools.
Herman said the decision was prompted by a Troy Junior High School student who came forward last week, identifying as a male, who asked to use the male restroom at the school. Herman said several meetings have been held with the child’s parents in connection with the request.
“It’s not something where we just took the word of the student,” he said.
In accordance with the Title IX federal educational act, which the Troy City School District follows, Herman said, by law, he must provide the facilities to the student. Herman said following direction from the district’s legal counsel, Julie Martin of Scott, Scriven & Wahoff LLP of Columbus, and speaking to board of education members, he made the gender-neutral restroom decision on Friday. Later that day he sent out an automated message to all parents in the school district informing them of the decision.
The automated call read: “Troy City Schools is committed to providing a safe learning environment to all students, including an environment free from sex discrimination. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education have taken the position that prohibiting a student access to the restroom that matches the student’s gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX. Therefore, Troy City Schools allows students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity. Each school building has gender-neutral, individual-user facilities available for those students or visitors to the building who do not want to use shared facilities. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or a building principal.”
Mike Perona, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Education, said Ohio is a local control state, and therefore if there is no set law, which there is not at this point for this issue, it falls under local control and is a local decision and local laws would apply.
As part of the gender-neutral restroom decision, Herman said a transgender student can use the restroom based on the gender to which they identify. Herman said any student who does not feel comfortable with the decision to allow transgender students to use their preferred restroom can use the school’s clinic bathroom, which is a one-stall facility.
Following the decision, while there has been discussion from both sides of the issue; Herman said at the end of the day he is following the law and is first and foremost dedicated to all of the 4,600 students in his charge.
“Most of this is brand new for us. It’s something that has happened and that we have to deal with. We’re trying to catch up right now,” Herman said in an interview Tuesday morning. “There is no movement to take anyone’s rights away.”
In fact, Herman said, it is his job to protect each and every child that walks through the city schools doors.
“We’re here to provide a safe environment for the kids,” he said. “All students have rights. This is a law that we are going to follow. And, it protects the rights of certain students.”
Herman said he has concern for those students who will struggle with the decision and has spoken to administrators at the schools within the district and school counselors. He said all are open to having discussions with any students that would like to discuss the issue.
Herman said Tuesday that although there have been calls and “paperwork” against the decision, he is not aware of any students that have been pulled from the school system over the decision. He said he, along with other school administrators are working on a protocol “as we speak” to address the situation.
“We are developing protocol right now. We believe we must be informed, but there also needs to be meetings between the school and parent to discuss procedures and expectations,” he said.
In the end, Herman said he is just doing his job as the district’s superintendent and following the law.
“The law basically says everyone has rights and you don’t get to pick and choose,” he said.