Female students at an Iowa high school staged a walkout last week to protest the school's decision to allow a trans-identified student to enter the girls' locker room.
About 20 students protesting for privacy rights walked out of Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs at around 10:30 a.m. last Thursday and began a demonstration outside the school’s main entrance.
According to WOWT, the walkout was triggered by a student who believes that her privacy rights are being violated because a biologically male student who identifies as female is now allowed to use the girls' locker room.
Another group of about 40 other students also walked out around the same time to demonstrate in favor of the trans-identified student being able to use the girls’ facilities. That group’s demonstration took place on top of a hill just to the right of the school’s entrance.
The demonstrations lasted about 15 minutes before students returned to class.
“I believe if you have the male parts you go to the males’ bathroom and if you have the female parts you go to a ladies room and that's just the way I was raised,” student Brandi Scherlund told the local news station.
Under Iowa state policy, schools are required to allow students to use bathrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their gender identity.
During the short demonstration, the female students who opposed the policy chanted: “We want our privacy! He is a male!”
“We felt very uncomfortable with a male who's not doing anything to be transgender going into the female restrooms,” one student said.
Superintendent Vickie Murillo of the Council Bluffs Community School District told WOWT that the state of Iowa has adopted a policy that was pushed on all of the nation’s school districts by the Obama administration in 2016. That year, the Obama administration sent out guidance advising schools to allow transgender-identified students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
“[O]ur students who are transitioning into a new gender have the right to use the restroom that they identify,” Murillo said. “So it is our obligation to allow that to occur."
However, the Obama-era guidance on school bathroom policy was rescinded by the Trump administration and struck down in a Texas federal court. The guidance relied on an interpretation of civil rights law that extended discrimination protections on the basis of sex to also protect on the basis of gender identity, an interpretation criticized by conservatives.
The school district has stated that the students were within their rights to protest and that no students would be punished for doing so.
“I was very proud of how the students peacefully conducted themselves,” Murillo told the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s important to us to let students express their opinions as long as it’s done in a respectful way.”
According to Murillo, there is a process that transitioning students must go through to alert the school administration about their gender status so they can obtain permission to use the restrooms or locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The Council Bluffs walkout comes as parents and students across the country have spoken out against policies allowing transgender students to access facilities according to their gender identity.
Last November, students at a Pennsylvania school district asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn their school district’s policy allowing trans-identified students to access bathrooms and locker rooms on the basis of their gender identity.
The court has yet to announce whether it will take up that case.
In 2017, the court had the opportunity to take up the case of a transgender student in Virginia who sued over being barred from entering boys' locker rooms and bathrooms. But the court remanded that case back to the lower court. A federal court later ruled in favor of the teenager.