Bethel schools face bathroom controversy


By Sam Wildow

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BETHEL TOWNSHIP — The Bethel Local School District is facing a controversy in regard to the district complying with federal laws to allow a transgender student to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

Superintendent Justin Firks said on Tuesday a family recently asked for equal access to bathrooms to be given to a transgender student.

Firks explained this is not a new district policy, but the district is complying with federal law that students must be given access to the bathrooms of their gender identities. Previously, the district had other arrangements made with the student.

“It’s not necessarily a new issue, but it’s a new issue here at Bethel,” Firks said, noting that other nearby districts have been facing this controversy for a few years.

When asked if other students could have other arrangements made for them if they do not feel comfortable with the district’s compliance with federal law, Firks said they can “certainly have those conversations,” but the district does have limited bathrooms.

Firks said the district is trying to do everything it can to provide the safest environment possible.

Firks also confirmed one family has chosen to pull their student from the district and home school the student instead in response to this controversy.

“It’s unfortunate, but they do have that right,” Firks said.

In 2020, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of a transgender student who sued his school district in Florida over a policy that barred him from using the bathroom of his gender identity. In August of 2021, a majority vote of the full 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the ruling, meaning all 12 judges of that court will hear the case again. This could eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the issue.

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