Education

Derby schools waiting for specifics on transgender bathroom policy

Derby superintendent Craig Wilford says he wants to see details on the Trump administration’s directive before deciding whether Derby schools will alter their practices.
Derby superintendent Craig Wilford says he wants to see details on the Trump administration’s directive before deciding whether Derby schools will alter their practices. File photo

Derby superintendent Craig Wilford said he’s not sure how a rollback of federal guidelines on bathroom access for transgender students will affect his district, which has been debating the issue for nearly a year.

“It will be interesting to see what the letter actually says,” Wilford said Thursday. “We’ll evaluate that and see if it gives us any specific direction or if it leaves it up to the local district, and we’ll go from there.”

The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines issued by former President Obama that allowed public school students to use restrooms and other facilities corresponding to their gender identity.

In a two-page “Dear Colleague” letter to public schools, the Trump administration said the existing guidance did not “undergo any formal public process” or explain how the directive was “consistent with the express language of Title IX,” the federal law outlawing sexual discrimination in education and activities.

“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. “Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.”

Derby High School, just south of Wichita, began allowing students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity last May. The move sparked a backlash from some parents, community members and politicians who said the decision endangered students’ privacy.

At a school board meeting last July, Derby board members opted to continue the new policy and appointed a community task force to explore the issue.

Wilford, the superintendent, who plans to retire at the end of this school year, said Thursday that he wants to see details on the Trump administration’s directive before deciding whether Derby schools will alter their practices.

Are we going to go 180 degrees the other way and not allow it? It is going to say that? Or is it going to go partial and say we’ll turn it back over to the states?

Craig Wilford, Derby superintendent

“Are we going to go 180 degrees the other way and not allow it? It is going to say that?” Wilford said. “Or is it going to go partial and say we’ll turn it back over to the states?

“If that’s the case, we really don’t have any state plans in place.”

The Kansas Board of Education voted unanimously last summer to ignore the Obama administration’s directive on accommodating transgender students.

Board members argued that local schools are best suited to decide how to handle issues transgender students confront, including which bathrooms they are allowed to use and which name and gender appears on class rosters and other school records.

Wilford said the district’s task force on transgender issues had its last scheduled meeting Tuesday and plans to make a presentation to Derby school board members. The date for that report has not been set, he said.

If federal and state officials leave it up to local districts to decide how to accommodate transgender students, Wilford said, “We would consult with our legal counsel and share that with the board, and let the board proceed as they saw appropriate.”

So far practices at Derby High School in regard to bathroom access haven’t changed, and things are running smoothly, Wilford said.

“We’ve not had any issues at all.”

Tyler Krayer, 17, a senior at Derby High School, garnered enough votes from classmates to earn the title of Holly Ball King at the school's winter formal. Krayer, who came out as transgender when he was 15, has advocated for LGBTQ rights at the sc

Thomas Vitkus, a Friends University student and transgender male, asks the Wichita City Council to rewrite a city ordinance that makes it a crime for him to use the men's restroom. (Dion Lefler/The Wichita Eagle/May 17, 2016)

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments