A school district in Georgia has reversed its policy that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their identity after staff, students, and school board members received death threats, according to a statement the district released Wednesday.
The Pickens County Board of Education said in its statement that it had only made the new decision to protect staff and students. “There have been many serious safety concerns raised in the past few days,” the statement said. “There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property. The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the District has concerns that it may not be able to meet these recently increased demands.”
Transgender students in the district will now have to use the single-stall bathrooms previously reserved for teachers and other faculty, as they did before the policy was implemented.
The district implemented its previous bathroom policy after a Florida federal court ruled in 2018 that a 16-year-old transgender boy in St. Johns County, Florida, should be allowed to use the men’s room. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided the case, also has jurisdiction over Georgia and Alabama. As a result, the Pickens school board granted transgender students access to the bathrooms of their choice to avoid a potential lawsuit. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, St. Johns County has appealed the 2018 ruling, and arguments are scheduled for a hearing in December.
Pickens County Superintendent Carlton Wilson told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB that parents were the source of the threats. “The way some called names has been embarrassing and disappointing to me, and that’s hard to get over,” he said. “One of them said, ‘You know, situations like this brings out crazy people from both sides, and sometimes people die.’ ”
Wilson added that one person had been arrested after making threats on social media, and one or more people had vandalized one school’s girls’ bathroom. “They’re kids,” he said. “They are all kids, and none deserved to be treated the way some of them have been treated.”
In the statement, the school board said it would keep the single-stall policy (which at least one transgender student complained meant discomfort with both students and teachers) until it could “consult with law enforcement and other safety professionals” over the threats.