Photo by Jolene Guzman
People at Dallas School District’s Jan. 19 meeting write questions for the district’s lawyers to answer on Jan. 19
As of Tuesday, January 26, 2016
DALLAS — People attending Dallas School District’s meeting about its policy allowing a transgender boy to use the boys’ locker room at Dallas High School were in search of respect for all students.
With groups in the community having differing interpretations of what that means — and what the law says — achieving that goal may prove challenging for the district.
“Our district has done what it believes has been appropriate while adhering to federal and state law via the guidance of our attorneys,” said Dallas School District Board Chairwoman Lu Ann Meyer at the meeting, which drew more than 200 people to the Dallas Civic Center on Jan. 19.
Meyer said within the next two months the Oregon Department of Education will issue guidelines for school districts.
DHS Principal Steve Spencer said the school is working to meet the needs of both for the transgender boy who asked to use the boys’ locker room and for boys sharing that space who feel uncomfortable.
“We work individually with each student to provide the accommodations that would allow them to feel most comfortable,” Spencer said.
According to the district’s lawyers, the district must continue doing that or risk being sued or enduring a federal investigation.
“The district can’t discriminate against any student,” said Paul Dakopolos, an attorney with Salem’s Garrett Hemann Roberson, who represents the district. “On these kinds of issues … we are going to have to do what is right for all.”
The district’s attorneys interpret that to mean if a transgender student requests using the locker room and restroom of their gender identity, the district has to accommodate.
That conclusion is partly based on a federal Office of Civil Rights resolution of a complaint filed on behalf of a transgender boy attending a school district in Illinois. OCR concluded the district compelling the student to use an alternative changing area was a violation of Title IX.
Kelly Noor, another attorney representing the district, said the situation — changing in an area removed from the student’s classes — often made her late for classes and affected attendance.
Dakopolos also explained why a federal court decision throwing out Title IX as a defense for a similar policy in a Virginia school district may not apply in Oregon, which is under the jurisdiction of the federal court’s Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco. He said the Ninth Circuit has interpreted Title IX differently than the other court.
He said adopting a policy preventing transgender students from using the locker rooms and restrooms of their gender identity wouldn’t end well for the district.
“You could expect a lawsuit, and in my opinion, you would be on the losing end of a lawsuit,” Dakopolos said.
Dallas Parents for Privacy for All, a group opposing the policy, say there’s an alternative to a lawsuit. The group wants to work with district administrators to find a solution that respects all students. The group says it has already happened Portland and Eugene, which used creative scheduling and parent involvement to address the situation.
The group hopes the meeting will be just the beginning of the discussion.