MENASHA, Wis. – A mother couldn’t believe her ears when her daughter came home from school last week and told her the news:
A male transgender student at Menasha High School, which the mother’s daughter is a senior, has been allowed to use his choice of restrooms – male or female – since the beginning of the school year.
And starting last Friday, the boy, who’s a member of the school’s marching band, was allowed to use the changing room previously reserved for female members.
The mother’s daughter, who is also in the band, was uncomfortable with that situation.
To complicate matters, the mother says the transgender student is presumed to be heterosexual because he has what appears to be a romantic relationship with a female classmate. That means a teenage boy who is apparently attracted to females is allowed to use girls restrooms and changing facilities.
The mother said one 14-year-old female band member had not heard of the policy when she went to change last Friday, and was horrified to find the boy changing in the girls’ room. She said the girl opted to put her band uniform on over her street clothes, so she wouldn’t have to undress in front of a boy.
The mother said she called the 14-year-old’s mother, who was very upset because she hadn’t been told of the situation.
“All of the sudden my daughter walked in (the house last Friday) and said things are pretty awkward at school,” said the mother, who requested anonymity. “She said there was a boy changing in the girls’ dressing room. She found out (about the new policy) about an hour before it happened.
“She said, ‘Mom, he and his girlfriend were standing next to each other changing.’”
The mother says she can understand the school district making an effort help the transgender student be more comfortable. She adds that her daughter is friends with the boy, who reportedly dresses in clothing more typical for women and considers himself a female.
But she doesn’t understand why girls who may be uncomfortable with the arrangement are being forced to accept it or use alternate facilities, just to accommodate one special needs classmate.
And the mother doesn’t understand how the district could adopt and implement such a policy without notifying the parents of high school students.
She said she met with Menasha High School Principal Larry Hasse on Monday, and claims he steadfastly defended the policy and dismissed her concerns.
“I said (to the principal) I’m concerned,” the mother said. “There is a person who says he’s a girl, but is attracted to women, in the girls changing room, and I asked him why he didn’t think it was necessary to notify me. He tried about 15 different ways to shut me down.
“His first response was, well, she (the transgender student) has to be accommodated. He said if any girls are uncomfortable they can let someone know and they will find different accommodations for them.
“He said he didn’t think it was necessary to send out a letter to parents at the beginning of school year. He tried to tell me that a long time ago all the (band) kids changed in same room, but some of the girls were uncomfortable.”
That, according to the mother, is precisely the point.
“So some girls were uncomfortable changing in front of boys, and now they put a boy in the girls’ changing room,” she said.
The mother also said the principal told her that she is the only parent to complain.
That has apparently changed in recent days, since news of the situation has spreading around the community. A local television report said about “a half dozen” parents have now complained, according to the mother.
The mother said her husband talked to a friend who’s a school board member in a nearby Wisconsin district, and the board there has come up with a more logical way to deal with the challenge.
“This guy told my husband, if a transgender student comes forward, they will provide a separate locker room, bathroom and changing room for that person,” the mother said. “That’s reasonable. It’s just like you would accommodate someone in a wheelchair.”
EAGnews was not able to reach Hasse or the Menasha school superintendent for comment.
But Hasse did have a phone interview earlier this week with Amy Spreeman, a talk show host on WORQ radio in Green Bay.
When asked why parents weren’t informed of the policy and the way it was being implemented, Hasse said, “Because the students are the ones changing in the changing rooms, not the parents.”
Hasse indicated that the transgender student requested the changing room privileges last week, according to Spreeman.
“The student is a she, and as such is allowed to change in the girls’ room,” Hasse said.
When Hasse was asked if the policy would be extended to girls locker rooms, he “refused to answer and abruptly ended the conversation,” Spreeman wrote in a published blog.