Fairfax Co. school meeting becomes heated over debate on transgender nondiscrimination policy

At a regularly scheduled school board meeting in Fairfax County, a number of parents and citizens came out to speak about pushing forward with transgender policy in schools -- with the debate in particular about bathroom use. Several people were opposed to any changes and it was a heated meeting with people on both sides very passionate about this issue.

On one side, you had transgender children talking about being uncomfortable using the bathroom at school along with heartbreaking stories of bullying.

"I think it's kind of unfair that transgenders shouldn't be able to use bathrooms and it may not seem like a big deal to those who aren't transgenders, but to me, it is a big deal," said Fairfax County student Victoria Johnson.

"In addition to being an FCPS alumnus and coach, I am also a transgender man," said Tyler Engleman. "When I was an FCPS student, I experienced firsthand the kind of harassment that children get from their peers."

But on the other side, there were parents expressing concern about their children being forced to accept these changes as the "new norm."

"I have a little child and she is afraid of boys and now she's got boys coming in the bathroom," said one father who stormed out of the meeting upset that he was not able to speak at the meeting. "It's not just the bathroom. It's the showers. It's the locker rooms. They could basically be stripping down. And it's not just children. Adults can go in there."

The group who gathered to speak before the board Thursday night came to thank Fairfax County for adding to its policy last May that it will not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. But they are asking that regulations now be put into place to enforce that policy.

They want school records to be adjusted so that the preferred pronoun is used for students without any medical proof required - particularly on diplomas. They are seeking training for staff and teachers to make sure all students are treated with dignity and fairness. They also want students to be able to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Kayden Ortiz, a senior from Robinson Secondary School who identifies as a young man, talked about how he is encouraged by the changes he already sees at school.

"It just makes a whole difference for the whole community because they feel accepted and there is less likeliness of suicide, less likeliness of self-harm and things like that," said Ortiz.

A parent who was in opposition of the transgender regulations yelled out and interrupted Engleman, a transgender coach, as he spoke at the podium. Some others also expressed their disgust and also left the meeting.

There are also several lawsuits underway in Virginia regarding gender identity. Those who are for transgender rights, they are concerned that the school administration is going to wait until those lawsuits are resolved to put in place any regulations involving schools in Fairfax County. They fear that could take years and they want it to happen sooner.