/Local schools speak up about HB1523, transgender issue

Local schools speak up about HB1523, transgender issue

Two school districts took stances on controversial religious objections laws and federal guidance that advised schools to allow transgender students access to facilities and bathrooms that are compatible with their gender identity. According to The Daily Leader, the superintendent of Lincoln County School District Mickey Myers stated that the district will not follow the federal directive as he wants to “keep an environment safe and protect all of our students and this is not a distraction to the focus of what our school system about.” Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice & Department of Education published guidelines that state that schools must allow transgender students to use locker rooms and restrooms “consistently with their gender identity.” Myers wasn’t available for comment on Friday afternoon. Myers’ comments on the guidelines are made after the state superintendent for education changed her position. Carey Wright originally stated that her department would comply with the directive. However, four days later, she changed her mind and said that the department should “follow the leadership of the state and take no action at the moment regarding the non-regulatory guidance of the U.S. Department of Justice” and the U.S. Department of Education.” Wright eventually resigned amid increasing pressure from state legislators. Myers said that the federal directive isn’t lawful or binding and that it should not be followed. Jackson Public School District changed its hiring policy to comply with House Bill 1523 (the state’s new law on religious objections). The board voted in favor of adding “gender identity” as well as “sexual orientation” into the list of categories that the district cannot discriminate against during its hiring process. After the unanimous vote, Jed Oppenheim, a board member, said that it reflected on where the district is heading in terms of protecting against discrimination, including sexual orientation, gender identification and gender expression. Circuit clerks would be allowed to use “sincerely held religious beliefs” to deny a marriage license to gay couples. However, the law states that the clerk must ensure the license is issued on time. This law would also allow schools to adopt policies regarding gender-specific clothing or bathrooms, without any legal liability. However, most school districts aren’t speaking out about the House Bill 1523 or the federal directive regarding transgender students. Jim Keith, an attorney for the Mississippi School Boards Association, said that he wasn’t aware of any other school districts who had changed their policies. Keith stated, “We’re still waiting to see how the court and Congress decide.” “All school districts are committed not to discriminate against anyone.”