Parents fired up over bathroom incident at TUSD school

Published: Mar. 27, 2014 at 2:18 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Can a transgender student use whichever bathroom they want to?  Tucson Unified School District officials said yes, the district's discrimation policy was revised this week to add the word "gender" into it.  TUSD officials said, as per policy, students could use whichever bathroom they felt they identified with, in terms of a gender.

Many parents at Anna Henry Elementary school on the east side were fired up after a recent incident that they said made their children uncomfortable.

Susan Wright said her 10-year old son was using the urinal when a student he identified as a female walked in on him.  Concerned parent Danya Ayers said she knew of another incident where a boy was very uncomfortable after a child he knew as a girl removed her underpants in front of him.

"My son won't even let me go in the bathroom with him, he won't let a female teacher go in with him, this did not make him comfortable," said Wright.

TUSD officials held a meeting at Anna Henry Elementary to discuss transgender student issues.  The district spent over $1,000 to hire national experts to discuss what being a transgender meant.  The experts would also train staff members and act as consultants.

Our news cameras were not allowed inside the meeting.  Officials said they wanted parents to feel comfortable enough to ask questions.  We were allowed to sit in and take notes.

The meeting got heated when parents questioned the bathroom policy.  The transgender experts said they were not there to discuss school board policy.  Many parents said they wanted to know what the school planned to do about the bathrooms.

On the opposing side, several parents spoke up and said they were interested in hearing from the experts.  One parent said "If your child is not comfortable using the bathroom, ask them to use the alternative bathroom,".

School officials tried to ease the tension by telling parents they would answer questions about the bathroom policy after the speakers were done.

Parents spoke to us outside, before and after the meeting.

"It's a privacy issue.  It's not a gay or a lesbian issue.  If that were the case, I would despise my cousin my uncle that has absolutely nothing to do with it," said concerned parent Sharah Gray.

School officials said, they had temporarily addressed the issue by blocking off all the male urinals in the boys bathrooms, telling students to use the stalls.  The plan was to put partitions between all of the urinals.

We asked officials if this was something they planned to do at every TUSD school.  Officials said they did not know, the issue was new and it would be something they would have to address.

"I think making everything an individual stall is brilliant," said parent Shannon Twilling.

Other parents thought the issue was more complex and would open up a whole can of worms.

"I mean, what's next?  The next thing you know it's not just bathrooms, it's locker rooms,  it's showers.  Having two boys, I would not feel comfortable with them showering next to a fully developed female."

"It's a privacy issue, it's a safety issue.  Some students are just not comfortable with it," added Ayers.

Carol Grimsby, Executive Director of Wingspan said she was glad to see TUSD taking up the issue and trying to educate the community.

"I would like to make a statement about the children saying they were uncomfortable. The reality is the parents were uncomfortable.  The child saying that they were uncomfortable is taught that by their parents or the adult who is mentoring them, " said Grimsby.

Many parents left the meeting feeling uneasy and unsatisfied with TUSD's response to the issue.  School officials said they were still discussing how they would handle matters for the district as a whole.

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