Mat-Su school board approves bathroom ban for transgender students

Morgan Clemmer, a non-binary student at Colony High School, speaks to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough school board on Oct. 19, 2022. (Screenshot from MSBSD livestream.)

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough school board has approved a policy that prevents transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The board passed the policy at a meeting Wednesday night. All members of the public who spoke about the policy were opposed to it.

Morgan Clemmer is a non-binary student at Colony High School. They said the policy would increase feelings of isolation that many trans students already feel.

“Every day at school for transgender children, particularly non-binary children like myself, bathrooms are a minefield,” Clemmer said. “Every trip is a reminder that we’re not normal. It’s another agonizing internal argument. Which bathroom do I use? Do I want to use the wrong bathroom, or risk getting stared at or bullied?”

Clemmer circulated a petition among their classmates in support of creating an all-gender restroom at the school. Supporters have raised more than $5,000 for construction costs.

Board member Dwight Probasco asked the board to consider adding language to the policy that would allow for designated all-gender restrooms. The board declined to vote on that change, and it was left out.

Some speakers asked the board to consider the legal ramifications of the policy. Mike Garvey, advocacy director of the Alaska ACLU, referred to legal challenges to similar policies in other states in recent years.

“Almost every court to take up bills and policies like this have struck them down, led to the North Carolina governor losing his job, and cost jurisdictions millions,” Garvey said.

The policy passed in a 5-1 vote, with Probasco voting no. He said he thought transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, and that he didn’t think the policy would survive legal challenges.

“I do believe that this policy is built on sand and I do not believe that it will stand the test of time, and I believe the decision on this will be determined in court,” he said.

If the federal Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX become finalized, the district may have to allow trans students to use bathrooms that match their identity, or risk losing federal funds.

RELATED: After Mat-Su bathroom ban, community fundraises for all-gender high school restroom

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