"I'm standing up for what I believe in."
After an hour in executive session Monday night, the Horry County Board of Education reaffirmed its compliance to a Title IX ruling that allows transgender students to use the bathroom with which they identify.
The specially-called board meeting – which was just before the board’s regular workshop – only served to give the board “legal advice” concerning Title IX. The board did not vote on anything after the meeting, which means the district will continue to allow appropriate district staff to address any matters related to individual transgender students and the bathrooms they use at each school.
The board also spoke to a conservative organization’s legal counsel during the executive session, along with two other lawyers employed by the district.
Each student’s situation will be determined by school staff, as it has been previously, said Joe DeFeo, board chairman. The board is hoping the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will “clarify” its ruling regarding transgender students before the start of the next school year since the ruling was a “stay” while a panel of judges reviews the rule, DeFeo added.
“Therefore, it appears the implementation of the Title IX interpretation concerning transgender students and their use of the restroom based upon the gender with which they identify is still unresolved by the courts,” DeFeo said.
At least they’re letting students use the bathroom of the gender they identify with for the rest of this year.
Melanie Moore, transgender supporter
DeFeo said the board spent most of their time in executive session talking with lawyers, including conservative legal counselor Matt Sharp, with the Alliance Defending Freedom organization. DeFeo said speaking with a lawyer who represents a very specific side of the argument – the ADF helped lobby South Dakota’s legislature to pass a bill prohibiting transgender students from using the bathrooms that match their identity – is unbiased because the board has talked to all sides.
“We’ve looked at 10 different sides,” DeFeo said. “If we wanted to talk to just one side, that’s the board’s prerogative, but we’ve gotten the other side.”
The board is still supporting a Virginia appeal of a ruling allowing transgender students use of the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify. For now, transgender students will continue through the last month of school the same way they’ve done since August, to the relief of transgender supporter Melanie Moore.
“I felt like there was a lot of debate in that back room, but I’m happy with the result,” Moore said after the meeting.
Last week, the board unanimously approved supporting a Virginia appeal requiring the schools to allow students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. The district cannot join the appeal – because it was not part of the lawsuit – but it will file an amicus curiae brief to show support for the Virginia district.
A Richmond, Va., federal appeals court sided earlier this month with a transgender teenager, overturning a ruling barring him from using the boys’ restroom because he was born female. Horry County Schools was recently threatened with a lawsuit if it did not comply with the ruling in regards to a Socastee High transgender student who was banned from using the boys’ restroom – the restroom he identified with and had used since middle school.
The district will continue to maintain and respect the privacy rights of all its students.
Joe DeFeo, board of education chairman
The district will spend an undisclosed amount of money for specialized lawyers to join the appeal “unless and until [the district] is no longer under legal binding authority to abide by the Fourth Circuit ruling and Title IX,” according to a motion unanimously approved by the board.
Jeff Ayers, executive director of S.C. Equality – which advocates human rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender South Carolinians – is still a little hesitant about the board’s lack of action.
“I’m curious what took them an hour to come up with their decision to not make any changes, but we’re happy about it,” Ayers said.
S.C. Equality officials will continue to monitor Horry County’s treatment of transgender students and their access to bathrooms, Ayers said, but for now the “law of the land is still the Fourth Circuit’s ruling.”
Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN