Students, parents surprised to discover bathroom, changing-room policy for transgenders

Menasha High School

This story is not about an individual.*  It is about school policy that is decided, and then hidden, from parents and the student body. When policy involves sexuality and safety of minors, we believe parents deserve to know how the school is handling each and every situation.

The situation

About a stone's throw from my city, a male senior student at Menasha High School who identifies as a female has been given the green light to use a girls’ changing room, says several parents who learned of the decision quite by accident. Their daughters discovered the male student in the band’s girls changing room last Friday evening, where the girls had gone to change into their band uniforms prior to a football game.

“These girls are Freshmen (14 and 15-year-olds), and to find a senior boy in the girl's changing room made them extremely upset and uncomfortable,” says one mother, whose 14-year-old daughter walked in on the transgendered student.

The parent, who asked that we not identify her, says that the school told her they’ve known about the situation since the beginning of the school year. “The boy involved has identified as a girl and dresses in girl’s clothing, and is attracted to females, so it is very concerning to us as parents that we were never informed.”

According to EAGnews publisher and founder Kyle Olson, gender policies enacted by schools commonly aren’t communicated by school officials to parents.

“Parents should be informed of any policy that could potentially cause disruption in education, and this one certainly has,” says Olson, whose organization is dedicated to education reform.

Leaving the parents out of it

One parent says she contacted the Menasha High School principal and was told that the school decided to allow the transgendered student to use the girl’s bathroom at the beginning of the school year, and not to inform parents at that time. Additionally, decided last week to extend their policy to cover the girl’s changing room as well. (UPDATE: the Menasha Superintendent told me the boy was allowed to use a unisex bathroom for faculty, and not the girls' bathroom. But the parent maintains that the principal specifically told her it was the girls' bathroom.)

We contacted Menasha High School’s Principal Larry Hasse to ask about the policy and why parents were not informed of this policy.

"There is no official policy. We don't discriminate against any students or adults at Menasha. We try to accommodate all students so they feel comfortable in the education setting. If a student feels uncomfortable we try to come up with options so that he or she feels comfortable."

I asked why the decision was made not to tell the parents about this:  "Because the students are the ones changing in the changing rooms, not the parents."  Hasse says that the band teacher did speak to the students about this. But not all students heard the message.

Hasse said that a conversation with the transgendered student did take place last week and that he/she was accommodated. "The student is a She," insists Hasse, "and as such is allowed to change in the girl's room."  When I asked if the provisions would be extended to cover the girls' gym locker rooms to accommodate the request of the student, Haase refused to answer and abruptly ended the phone call.

It is not clear if the decision came from the district, or officials within the high school.

Says the parent: “When I told him (Principal Hasse) that one of the girls was too horrified to change in the changing room with the boy present, he said that the school will find another room for the girl to change. My question to the principal was, ‘why is the desires of one student put above the comfort of all the other students?’   That’s when he told me I was the only one who complained.”

So parents, what do you think? Should the school have been transparent and communicated this information with parents?