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|ACLU steps in to aid transgender Ga. elementary student|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|September 19, 2011 09:27|
Tommy Theollyn, the father of a seven-year old transgender son, is trying to get his son, D., access to the boy's restroom at Todd Grant Elementary school in Townsend, Ga., after being told by the district's superintendent that the child must use the girl's restroom. Theollyn presented his case before the McIntosh County School Board on Sept. 15, and also gained support from the ACLU last week.
Theollyn claims that before the new school year began last month, he met with D.'s teacher about his son's transgender status. Theollyn says that the teacher was understanding of his son's unique situation and offered support, but when the new school year began, Theollyn said he was told his son would be required to use the girl's restroom.
Theollyn, a transgender man who transitioned after giving birth to D., claimed that Superintendent William Hunter refused to allow his child, who was labeled a girl at birth but started identifying as a boy last year, access to the boy's restroom and threatened to call Child Services during a heated meeting in August.
D. has been home schooled since the meeting.
More than 41,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org created by Theollyn to draw attention to the decision made by Hunter.
Neither Hunter nor anyone else from the McIntosh County Schools have responded to repeated requests for comment.
National organizations like Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reached out to Theollyn to offer support and legal guidance. The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition has also been in contact the family.
“We've received a lot of warm, supportive comments in addition to the nasty ones,” Theollyn said in an email exchange with GA Voice last week. “I hope that 31,000 people behind us is enough to sway the board, but frankly, who knows?”
Not all of the reactions to D.'s situation have been positive, Theollyn said.
“Some of the nastiest comments we got came from our own trans community,” he said.
Reaction to the original story has been mixed. Some have compared Theollyn's actions to child abuse, while others offer support for the child and his family during the transition.
ACLU takes up the cause
The ACLU sent a letter to the McIntosh County School board on behalf of Theollyn, urging the school district to change its policy regarding transgender students and the right to use a restroom based on gender identity.
“Gender identity is not a matter of choice, but rather a person's natural sense of being male or female, which is usually firmly established by the age of four,” the letter reads.
“Restroom access based on gender identity is essential for transgender students. Forcing a transgender student to use a restroom inconsistent with his or her gender identity perpetuates gender stereotypes and fosters a hostile learning environment that is detrimental to a child's best interests.”
For now, the case rests in the hands of the ACLU, who released a one-line statement Friday, Sept. 16.
“Since we weren’t at the meeting, we can’t comment on what happened there directly, but Amanda Goad, staff attorney for the ACLU LGBT Project said, 'We and the family have expressed our concerns to the school board and the district, and are awaiting their response.'"
The ACLU also confirmed they signed a limited retainer agreement with Theollyn.
Read the entire letter below:
The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition also offered a letter on behalf of Theollyn. Read below:
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