Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 20, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) faces a lawsuit over its policy on student gender identity, it’s being accused of discriminating against transgender teachers in the bathroom.
On Tuesday, Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) fired out a press release asserting it supports equal restroom access for MMSD students and staff. The union doesn’t like the district’s directive to Frank Allis Elementary school staff to “limit their use of restroom facilities to the single person restroom.”
The union’s Equity and Diversity Committee, as well as MTI’s board of directors, released a statement saying that they “stand with Vica Steel and all our transgender, gender non-binary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied (LGBTQIA) staff.”
Steel is a transgender science teacher at Frank Allis. In a letter published in Our Lives Magazine last month, Steel claims that she used the women’s/girls’ bathroom across from her classroom beginning in January after coming out last March. The district received a complaint and asked the elementary school’s principal to come up with a policy barring staff from using the same bathrooms as students.
“MTI supports staff’s and students’ right to fully exercise their individually identified expression in an environment free from discrimination of any kind,” the union said.
In short, MTI supports transgender women (who used to be men) or men transitioning into women (and vice versa) using student bathrooms.
If all access is granted to transgender and transitioning students, then it must be applied to teachers, the union insists.
MTI demands the school district:
- Include and honor its current protective non-discriminatory policies (#1.02, #8012);
- Add language to also include staff in the MMSD Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender Expansive Students;
- Create space to hear from all staff including LGBTQAI staff and repair harm regarding restrictive restroom access for staff; and
- Create space for staff voices in any future policy development.
Will that include the voices of staff who disagree with the union and the district about their ideas of “equal restroom” access?
MTI President Andy Waity did not return a call and an email from Empower Wisconsin seeking comment.
As the union notes in its press release, MMSD does not have a districtwide policy which restricts staff restroom use. It is common practice for adults to use multi-stall restrooms, the union asserts.
“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” the union press release concludes.
But the transgender bathroom issue is more than just a distraction. It’s a legitimate concern for parents and students in the district.
MMSD spokesman Tim LeMonds recently told the Cap Times that a Frank Allis Elementary School parent whose child reported feeling uncomfortable using a children’s bathroom contacted the district to ask about what district practice is ”regarding adults using children’s bathrooms.”
Steel wrote on Facebook that she wasn’t following the district’s order. She’s still using the women’s/girls’ bathroom across from her classroom.
“I can’t say what will happen next, but I am hopeful that they (the district) will proceed with more care and that they will bring more voices, especially transgender voices and the voices of other marginalized people, to the table so any change of policy or practice is non-discriminatory,” Steel wrote.
It’s been a rough week for MMSD.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit alleging district policies that enable children, at any age, to change their gender identity at school without parental notice or consent violate the constitution. More so, the public-interest law firm alleges, the policy instructs district employees to “conceal and even deceive parents about the gender identity their son or daughter has adopted.”