Council Bluffs students hold walkout over transgender student seeking to use women’s bathroom

About 60 Abraham Lincoln High School students left the classroom Thursday morning in a walkout in which groups showed opposition — and support — for a transgender student who identifies as female and wishes to use the women’s bathroom at school.

The students split into two groups at 10:30 a.m. outside the main entrance. One group — who supported the student — walked up the hill near the track, while the second group — who opposed — remained near the entrance.

The first group could be heard chanting “equality,” while the second chanted “we want our privacy, he is a male,” and “one over all is not fair.”

Council Bluffs Community School District Superintendent Dr. Vicki Murillo said the walkout stemmed from a student at the school who did not want to be in the same restroom as a transgender student.

“I was very proud of how the students peacefully conducted themselves. It’s important to us to let students express their opinions as long as it’s done in a respectful way,” she said.

No disciplinary actions were taken for those who participated in the walkout. It lasted for about 15 minutes before students returned inside and went to class.

The school district’s policy regarding transgender students follows the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines laid out in “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students,” which can be found online at ed.gov.

“Schools often segregate restrooms and locker rooms by sex, but some schools have policies that students must be permitted to access facilities consistent with their gender identity and not be required to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or alternative facilities,” the publication states.

Murillo said there is a process in place between transgender or transitioning students and school administration to come to an understanding, so the student may have permission to use the restroom they identify with.

Federal guidelines state schools “generally rely on students’ or their parents’ or guardians’ expression of their gender identity for confirmation.

“Although schools sometimes request some form of confirmation, they generally accept the student’s asserted gender identity,” the policy states.

The guidelines listed examples of how various school districts in the country have handled the situation, like accepting a statement from the student or a letter from an adult familiar with the student’s situation. Another district developed administrative guidelines “noting that being transgender involves more than a casual declaration of gender identity or expression but does not require proof of a formal evaluation and diagnosis.”

The school is working with the student in question to complete the vetting process, said Diane Ostrowski, spokesperson forCouncil Bluffs Community Schools.

Counselors are also available to speak with students regarding their gender identity among other subjects. The high school also has a gender-neutral restroom anyone can use.

“We’ve never had an issue,” Murillo said. No formal complaints have been filed with the district over the situation from students, parents or faculty, she added. “We’ve had a speaker come in the past to talk with students about it, and we’re exploring the next step for more awareness.”

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