Three words added to NAFCS student handbook start bigger conversation on transgender issues

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A new move by the New Albany Floyd County school district has started a much bigger conversation on civil rights, protections and transgender students. 

Three words added to the student handbook could be the start of something much bigger. Those words are "sexual stereotype nonconformity." They're the words Lee Ann Wiseheart pushed to add to New Albany Floyd County Schools' handbook -- specific language she says is aimed at protecting transgender students in the district's harassment and discrimination policies. 

"We've told the community we're not going to discriminate against anyone," said Wiseheart.

"The board voted unanimously on this," said Wiseheart. "We want to send the message that NACFS welcomes anyone. It's a safe place for employees to work and students to learn."

Wiseheart wants to go further than these three words, addressing hot button issues, such as where students use the restroom.

"My personal opinion is I am not offended by whoever wants to use the restroom," said Wiseheart. "I personally have used a port-a-pot and I am pretty sure those are for men and women."

The school system hosts quarterly community feedback sessions. Wiseheart wants transgender restrooms on the next agenda. Wednesday afternoon, we found some early feedback.

"I would like to see them go to the restrooms they identify with, but I do think they should make sure they're safeguarded at all times as well," said Sandra Thomas, a Floyd County resident.

"Even if they start it when they're little?" asked Donna Lanning, a grandparent. "What if she  (her grandchild) is in a restroom and she knows it's supposed to be a guy, but they sit down, you know? What kind of thoughts does that give her and who is supposed to explain all that to her?"

It mirrors a national debate as companies and states alike address LGBT rights. North Carolina, is in the midst of a federal lawsuit over its so-called "bathroom bill." Target is experiencing protests after telling transgender customers to use whichever restroom they wish. 

In Indiana rules are more vague. Southern Indiana Equality President Brad Bell said, "Full protection is something the state is yet to pass and we're trying to get there but it's a slow pull."

It leaves public entities like school systems to draft its own rules. Officials said New Albany Floyd County school system's new language falls in line with a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Education.

"As school board members, we're elected to represent our community, so it's only smart I think we have this conversation that's touching on social issues right now and making sure we're doing what our community wants us to do," said Wiseheart

JCPS addressed the transgender bathroom issue last year, leaving it up to individual schools to make the decision.

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