International anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is once again trying to stop a local school district’s attempts to create an inclusive environment for transgender students. ADF sent a letter that mentioned possible litigation against the Grass Lake Community Schools district in Michigan and urged it to reverse a policy that allows transgender students to use the restrooms that align with their gender identity.
During a September 18 Grass Lake school board meeting, anti-LGBTQ parent activists spoke out against the board’s policy allowing transgender students to use restroom facilities that align with their gender identity. Parent activists had previously distributed fliers opposing the policy, and a Facebook page they created touted an August 14 letter from ADF to the Grass Lake school board.
ADF’s letter urged the school district to “reverse the policy, … which states that students will be allowed to use sex-separated facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity regardless of biological sex.” The letter also threatened that the policy opens “the school district to a risk of litigation.”
ADF has demonstrated a pattern of getting involved with local and state school policy, and has led the fight to deny transgender students equal access to school facilities. Recently, ADF emailed a letter to school districts across the nation in an attempt to push its model anti-transgender policies that would prevent students from using the restrooms that aligns with their gender identity; the group sent thousands of similar letters in 2014. Media Matters has identified at least four states and a number of schools whose “privacy” policy closely mirrored ADF's. Over the years, ADF has also sent out multiple letters threatening local schools and districts, just like Grass Lake, with litigation for proposing or implementing transgender-inclusive policies, and has sued the Department of Education and a number of school districts for implementing the policies. ADF affiliates and representatives have also run for school board positions in multiple states and have testified at local school events.
The mother of a young transgender boy in the Grass Lake school district testified at the September 18 meeting, saying that her son is “now not able to make it through a full day of school every day because the depression is setting in because in his mind he is no longer good enough, he is no longer legitimate.” According to WILX 10, after the school board decided to allow the students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, it asked her son and other transgender students to use the gender neutral bathroom while they built stalls “around the urinals in boys bathrooms.” The mother continued that the boy felt that in having to use a private bathroom, he was being forced to “accommodate all the people who must hate him,” adding that it’s “destroying him.”
The anti-LGBTQ parent group that received support from ADF mounted a Change.org petition to end the trans-inclusive policy. The petition claimed it’s “not true” that “transgender children MUST be allowed in the bathroom they identify with because suicide is a risk”:
We are being told that transgender children MUST be allowed in the bathroom they identify with because suicide is a risk if they aren't fully supported by the entire community. But this is not true. Even in a supportive setting, the risk of suicide stays the same or goes up.
In reality, researchers at The Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at the UCLA School of Law, reported that denial of access to restrooms is a serious issue. They said 60 percent of transgender students who responded to the 2015 National School Climate Survey were forced to use a bathroom that did not match their gender identity and that they reported negative physical and mental health impacts: “With respect to restroom access specifically, transgender students who are prohibited from using, or experience problems accessing, restrooms consistent with their gender identity report greater absenteeism, poorer school performance, withdrawing from public spaces and events, physical and mental health impacts (such as bladder infections, discomfort, and anxiety), having to change schools, or dropping out.”