Fairfax Co. schools debating proposal to protect transgender students, teachers from discrimination

There is a debate among administrators and parents at Fairfax County Public Schools on whether transgender students and teachers should be protected from discrimination and if they should be allowed to share restrooms with everyone else.

The school board is proposing a policy that would protect gender identity. In other words, transgender individuals from discrimination

"Parents will be prohibited from transferring their child out of the classroom of a transgender teacher," said Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition.

"Your brain is telling you, ‘Hey, I'm in the wrong body,'" said one parent who took the podium at the meeting. "To have that feeling and not be able to get out and express yourself is a hell on Earth and I think we owe it to ourselves, to these kids, who are our kids, to go speak up for them."

Opponents fear that this protection will have very complicated consequences -- such as students being allowed to use any bathroom they identify with -- something they are feverishly against.

"Providing such access is a safety issue," said Lafferty. "It endangers children and violates the rights of both students and parents."

Alex Strong, a father of four students in the school system, is against changing the current policy.

"While I respect any individual and their choices and what they do in their life, that's something I feel at an elementary school age is just too soon to have to deal with," said Strong.

But others say this debate has nothing to do with bathrooms.

"Forty-seven percent of transgender students report having missed a class or school in the last month because they felt unsafe," said Robert Rugby Jr., a teacher at West Potomac High School.

They say in Fairfax County specifically, protecting transgender students from discrimination is a life or death issue.

"They say 40 to 60 percent attempt suicide, maybe 50 percent kill themselves," said one parent. "That's 500 kids are going to die and one of the reasons they are going to die is they get this hatred and misunderstanding from people."

The Fairfax County school board is set to discuss the issue again and take a vote on May 7.