Mat-Su school board bans trans students from using bathroom of gender they identify with

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District School Board voted to suspend a policy for bathroom use of transgender students.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 4:39 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2022 at 7:45 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District School Board voted to suspend a policy that previously allowed transgender students to use the gendered bathroom which corresponds with their own gender identification.

The school board’s vote on the agenda item was 5-1. Board member Dwight Probasco was the lone no vote and Board President Ryan Ponder was not present at the meeting. Members Jim Hart, Ole Larson, Tom Bergey, Jeff Taylor, and Jubilee Underwood all voted in favor of rescinding the previous bathroom policy for transgender students.

In a letter sent to parents on Thursday, Superintendent Randy Trani noted that the agenda item was proposed by the school board’s policy committee. The statement provided by the policy committee noted that a decision by a federal judge triggered the policy revision.

“That Court action affords the Committee an opportunity to review its current policies regarding such matters, and for the District’s administration to review its guidelines regarding student use of communal bathrooms/locker rooms that match their gender identity,” the policy committee’s statement said. “The Committee believes that the District’s Guidelines should be placed on hold pending such reviews.”

The removal of the policy now means that any transgender students within Mat-Su schools must use bathrooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth, but allow “to continue offering those students use of school bathrooms that provide individual locked access and privacy.”

Vincent Feuilles, president of a Mat-Su-based LGBTQ+ and allies nonprofit organization The Queen’s Guard, said the suspension of the policy could potentially harm transitioning students who haven’t come out yet.

“You now have someone who looks, sounds, walks, appears to be a person who is a cisgender — or a person who was born male — going into women’s spaces,” Feuilles said. “You have taken them out of the spaces that match their gender identity and moved them over here, so now you have just outed this kid.”

Feuilles attended Wednesday’s meeting but was unable to testify due to the signup sheet being full. He said he heard a lot of misinformation coming out of various testimonies and hopes that the policy committee will invite his organization into the conversation when the guidelines are rewritten.

“One or two of the board members had said that they were going to reach out to the trans community because they wanted input and information on how to, hopefully, create a positive interaction,” Feuilles stated. “As the president of The Queen’s Guard, we’re willing to offer and extend that out to the school board.”

Trani stated in his letter that he was enacting the policy revision as directed by the school board’s 5-1 vote. The policy went into effect district-wide the next day.

“Pending a permanent resolution to this issue, I am suspending the use of bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with student gender identity in compliance with the Board’s directive,” Trani wrote. “Transgender students will still be offered the use of bathrooms and locker rooms which are individually locked. All students will have access to communal bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex assigned at birth.”

In June, the board voted to approve a ban on trans athletes competing in girls’ extracurricular and co-curricular activities sponsored by the district. Probasco was also the lone no vote in the 6-1 decision to pass Board Policy 6145.