Perkiomen Valley School Board passes bathroom policy based on biological sex

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The school board of Perkiomen Valley School District (PVSD) recently voted to pass a restroom policy that many view as discriminatory toward trans students — reversing course from its original plan of reassessing the proposed policy in the next policy committee meeting in mid October. 

Policy 720 prohibits trans students from using multi-user restrooms that align with their gender identity. At the PVSD school board work session on Monday, Oct. 2, the school board voted 5-4 to pass the policy. 

At the Sept. 19 policy committee meeting, board member Don Fountain, who initially voted to fast-track policy 720, proposed what he considered to be a compromise policy that would designate two sets of men’s and women’s restrooms at the Perkiomen Valley High School as nonbinary bathrooms, and keep the remaining multi-user facilities as “biological male/female,” he said at that meeting. Policy committee members then agreed to send the policy to the district’s administrative team for review before readdressing it in the next policy meeting. 

However, at the Oct. 2 school board meeting, some board members proposed a policy that barely deviated from the original: to have all multi-user bathroom facilities be based on biological sex, but open up more single-use restrooms as gender-neutral facilities.   

“When [board member] Mr. [Matthew] Dorr and I had spoken about the idea of opening up all the individual bathrooms – that actually felt like an even better compromise,” Fountain said at the work session, referring to a conversation he had with Dorr. “In part because it also allows for hearing the voices of some of those students that we really never hear the voices of. We’ve got students in this building right now who are dealing with extreme anxiety. They’re not going to come out and speak, but that also is a group that could possibly benefit from the ability to use a single bathroom. You also have students who have body dysmorphia that are not comfortable in their own bodies.”

At both school board and policy committee meetings, some board members and parents of PVSD students communicated their opinion that policy 720 would better ensure a sense of safety in multi-user bathrooms in the district, and that they felt that the policy is not about transphobia. Some board members said they felt policy 720 would protect women. 

“It seems to me that the larger issue is that schools are properly concerned for the safety and well-being of all the students,” said Reid Trulson, president of PFLAG Royersford, a branch of a national organization that educates and advocates for LGBTQ+ people and their families. “All students includes those who are intersex and those who are trans. So unless a school thinks through and develops policies and procedures — in this case usages of restrooms — that respect and honor and are intended for the well-being of all students, including intersex and trans [students], they’re failing their duty.”

PVSD board member Laura White said at the Oct. 2 meeting, “one of the things that I would have put forward had we gone through the line by line of the policy, was about the fact that the definitions within policy 720, to me, if it’s truly about safety, don’t reflect the safety issues that are actually happening for our students in the buildings. In order for policy 720 to actually reflect that safety, we would all have to be under the assumption that all of the male students in our buildings and anyone that identifies potentially as male, if they are a transgender male, are…predators.” 

The proposal of policy 720 arose from a social media post by the father of a Perkiomen Valley High School student, who claimed that his daughter used the bathroom and believed that a boy was in the room with her, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The parent, Tim Jagger, told the school board that his daughter was too distressed to use the bathroom.

According to The Inquirer, Jagger posted on social media that the PVHS principal told him in an email that students in the school are allowed to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The principal was referring to school policy 103, an anti-discrimination policy that includes gender and gender identification. 

At the Oct. 2 school board meeting, board members Dr. Reena Kolar and Sarah Evans-Brockett introduced policy 103.2, an amendment to policy 103. It specifies that students may use restrooms that align with the gender with which they most consistently identify. 

“I felt like that was a good compromise,” Kolar said at the school board meeting. “We’re not saying this is an open-door policy. We’re not talking about co-ed bathrooms. We’re saying that you use the bathroom for the gender that you consistently identify with, which I felt was more specific and maybe would give people a greater sense of safety.” 

Dorr found the proposed policy 103.2 to be subjective because of the fluidity and scope of gender identity, based on a list of 68 gender identities he found in the archives of, he said at the meeting. 

“What Dr. Kolar just said — it has to be someone who identifies regularly,” Dorr said. “There are people who are gender-fluid who change their gender daily, weekly, monthly. We’re already putting a guardrail on that policy.”

Policy 103.2 was also voted on at the meeting and did not pass, despite multiple board members requesting that both policies 720 and 103.2 be reassessed in committee meetings, as is usual procedure for school policies. 

Comments from parents and students yielded some who support policy 720, and some who view it as transphobic. 

“You need to look out for the younger, more vulnerable kids of this generation who are discriminated against and bullied because they are part of a minority,” Katie Wilson, a senior at Perkiomen Valley High School said at the Oct. 2 meeting. “Your job is to protect the students, not your political beliefs. Prove to us that you actually care.”

In terms of how school board members plan to continue to push back against policy 720, White said in an email, “the message right now is to focus on getting out the vote. The only way to stop the trajectory of the current climate is through change of voting power. In order for society to reflect [the] values that we want to see, we need to elect officials and policy makers that embody those values.”

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