CENTER GROVE, Ind. - The controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s public school bathroom directive is still brewing in central Indiana.
The Center Grove Board of School Trustees held a public forum Thursday night to get community input on the federal guidance directing public schools to let students use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.
“I think it’s a matter of genetics. It doesn’t matter what you feel. You’re born with an XY or an XX,” said Susannah Brandt, of Center Grove.
Nearly 300 packed the forum Thursday night, bringing a variety of opinions on bathroom politics, making headlines across the country, with possible implications for every school district in Indiana.
“My concern is that my 14-year-old daughter is not going to be in a restroom with a man who wants to be a woman or thinks he is a woman,” said Sid Blazek, of Center Grove.
The board set the open forum to gauge community response, following the federal guidance handed down in May, directing districts to allow students to use facilities for the gender they identify with as priority over their biological gender.
The guidance is not a law, but the Obama administration warned that districts that do not comply could face lawsuits and lose federal funding.
The Center Grove Community School Corporation said they already have an anti-discrimination policy and accommodate transgender students on a case-by-case basis.
Pastors in the community presented a letter signed by 11 clergy, in opposition to the federal directive.
“We believe that the safest place for children to be when it comes to restrooms or locker rooms is the room of their biological gender. But we want to make sure anyone who identifies as transgender is protected and cared for as well,” said Steve Schellin, Senior Pastor of Southland Community Church.
Members of Schellin’s congregation who gather for a weekly Thursday night prayer service also came to the meeting, sitting quietly in prayer for the community during the forum, he said.
“We understand the pressure our school board is under. It’s a very difficult cultural issue they have to address,” said Schellin.
Many here shared the opinion of the pastors, but a vocal few urged more direct acceptance.
“I would also challenge you this evening about opening your arms and welcoming the LGBT community, not an easy task for any of us. If it was easy, everybody would do it,” said Sanjay Vyas.
A couple of students spoke in favor of more tolerant policies as well, with female student Madison Hodges saying she doesn’t anticipate any real danger.
“Most of the people I’ve met who are transgender are no threat to me,” she said.
Board of School Trustees President Adam Norman told the audience no action will be taken right now, but the group will consider all they heard in the weeks and months ahead. He advised it could be up for public discussion at future board meetings.
Nearly a dozen states are now suing the Obama administration over the directive.