June 19, 2021

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Hundreds show up to speak on Lee Schools’ bathroom policy for transgender students

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Dozens of parents spoke during public comment at the Lee County School Board meeting on Tuesday night about a policy that provides bathroom access for transgender students.

Their comments were brought on because of the district’s Equality Florida Best Practices and Action Steps poster, promoting an inclusive environment for LGBTQ students.

Hundreds of people came to speak about the policy, but only 60 made the cut. Each had one minute to speak before the board.

The school board policy was updated with those best practices in June 2020 after multiple public hearings. They were also added to the student code of conduct.

The school board said the practices do not allow male and female students to shower together or use the same bathrooms, like some are saying online. Instead, it allows trans students to use separate, private, gender-neutral bathrooms.

“The blanket idea that the district allows boys and girls to shower together, share the same locker-room or restroom is simply wrong. Indeed, it is a violation of the code of conduct,” said the district in a statement.

However, a poster used by the school says transgender students are allowed to use restrooms that align with their gender identity — but only with prior approval.

“All students are allowed access to restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity, or be provided with appropriate accommodations as requested. Accommodations are determined in collaboration with district staff on a case by case basis,” the poster reads.

Students cannot simply choose to use a different restroom. Instead, they go through a private process of approval with the school, Lee County School District spokesperson Rob Spicker said.

The policy also does not change curriculum.

“Schools are completely fine,” North Fort Myers High School student Devon Cranford said. “Nothing has changed fundamentally, and that these students including me are very very supportive of these measures.”

Community members, like Dan Severson, have said it’s the school board’s job to make parents aware of these changes and clear up any confusion.

“They haven’t done a very good job of communicating these things obviously to the public, because when the public heard about it they responded vigorously,” Severson said.

The school board will meet to discuss the poster and next year’s code of conduct on April 26 at 6 p.m. They encourage all parents to come and discuss their concerns during public comment.

Note: An earlier version of this story did not include information from the poster, saying students can use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity pending school approval.