Hot on the heels of a controversy stirred up by columnist Jon Caldara, who says he was fired by the Denver Post for arguing that there are only two sexes in a politically incorrect way, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education has unanimously passed a resolution calling for every school in the DPS system to designate at least one bathroom as gender-neutral.
The measure, a first for a Colorado school district, was championed by Tay Anderson, by far the board's youngest member. In a statement after its passage, Anderson said, "As a Denver School Board member, I am honored to bring this resolution forward to ensure protections for all of our students, staff and teachers. Now is our time to affirm our unwavering commitment to our LGBTQ community. This is a small step forward in the fight for justice."
Anderson received plenty of praise for this action on his Twitter account, where one person exclaimed, "I wish all elected officials supported LGBTQ+ rights as enthusiastically as you do, Tay!" But other social-media reactions, as well as discussions on such forums as Peter Boyles's KNUS talk show this morning, suggest that the action could become the latest local culture-war battleground.
The resolution, passed on January 23, is a strong and passionate document. A line resolving that "the District shall make available for all students, team members and DPS community members at least one all-gender restroom facility in currently existing DPS facilities and a commitment to including a minimum of one all-gender restroom facility in all new facilities construction" is followed by an affirmation of individuals' "right to be 'out' with students, staff and community members — the right to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity and to speak about their personal and family lives in the same manner as their non LGBTQIA+ peers." The posting of rainbow flags or other signs of support for such students is also expressly sanctioned by the resolution, and the system is directed to "work to support adults important to the child on greater acceptance and acknowledgement."
These elements and more stand out to Daniel Ramos, director of the advocacy organization One Colorado, which released this statement: "While we all hope that schools serve their purpose as an incubator for creativity, connection and learning, far too often they can be lonely or hostile places. This resolution is a much-needed step to protect LGBTQ youth, educators, administrators, staff and parents from becoming targets of bullying and abuse. We hope that other school districts will follow the example set by Denver Public Schools and affirm their commitment to an inclusive, welcoming learning environment for all."
Objections to the policy based on financial considerations are non-starters. Since schools need only to change the sign on at least one bathroom door, one person on Twitter argued that "basically it costs nothing to do the right thing."
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But plenty of responses to a Denver7 post asking if every school should have a gender-neutral bathroom went in different directions. Juxtaposed with supportive responses are rants about schools pushing liberal agendas, complaints about placing additional burdens on teachers, and predictions of conflict.
"I think this will cause tremendous issues in high school. Although we would like to think all children/teens are innocent, they aren't," one person wrote. Another maintained: "This is not smart. The foolery that would happen in there.... Kids are already trying to sneak in the opposite restrooms for misbehavior. This will also lead to bullying. Not smart. This will make kids more fragile, believe it or not." A grammatically challenged commentator weighed in with this: "Kids are in school to learn not to be miss guided and miss lead as to what gender roles they want to be in life." And there's also a GIF of a person gagging — Project Runway's Tim Gunn, who's gay.
Such responses inspired the following tweet: "Hey, there are probably going to be a lot of transphobic conversations happening online in response to DPS’s recent resolution to have gender neutral restrooms in schools. If you are able, jump in and shut that shit down, so trans folks don’t have to!"
Click to read the Denver Public School Board resolution concerning gender-neutral bathrooms.