A planned Tea Party protest of providing gender-neutral restrooms for transgender students in Gwinnett schools fizzled on Thursday, despite the conservative group's effort to flood a school board meeting with their complaints.
The United Tea Party of Georgia asked its member to pepper Gwinnet County school board members with questions about how the district will address transgender students. The call to action came after new federal guidelines calling for school districts to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity or face the loss of federal funds. Gwinnett blasted the guidelines but said it would provide gender-neutral bathrooms for trans students.
That, apparently, wasn't good enough for the Tea Party, which summed up its reaction to the guidelines with this: Yuk. (They had a similar reaction to anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation flopping, too.)
But when the public comment portion of Thursday's school meeting arrived, just one anti-LGBT person spoke. And when he did, David Hancock pulled his punches. He told the school board that it should work to reduce the $145 million in federal money it receives for its nearly $2 billion annual budget.
“I would encourage you, every year or a couple years, the less federal money you can take, obviously the less issues that would come up,” Hancock said, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Hancock (photo) apparently thinks that a lack of federal money flowing into Gwinnett would somehow absolve the school district of the responsibility to treat LGBT students with dignity and respect. But at least he didn't unload on the school board with a bunch of offensive transphobic rhetoric. You know, like a week ago in Fannin County when parents called LGBT students "perverts" and "pedophiles."
No, Hancock saved that bluster for Fox 5.
"I would have liked for them to say no, we have sexual identity that is pretty well defined. I haven't done a lot of research on this but it is pretty simple that there is born male, born female and you have a male and female restroom," Hancock told Fox 5.
During the school board meeting, school board Chair Robert McClure also weighed in, aiming his criticism at the federal guidelines, according to the AJC.
“I believe … this whole Dear Colleague letter violated the whole idea of federalism,” said McClure, one of four Republicans on the five-member school board.
Spokesperson Sloan Roach defended the response of the school system – the largest in Georgia with nearly 170,000 students – and its plan to repurpose single-serve faculty bathrooms into gender-neutral restrooms for transgender students.
"We have good common-sense practices already in use in our schools and our plan is to continue to use those," Roach told Fox 5. "We are not building new restrooms. They are in our schools and a student could use those if they wish."
But Tara Borelli, a Lambda Legal attorney who attended Thursday's meeting, said Gwinnett's plan to provide gender-neutral restrooms may not be sufficient.
"When you start separating trans students out into different space, it marks them as unequal. It tells other people that their gender identity is not to be respected," Borelli told Fox 5.
The issue of transgender students and which restrooms they use has erupted since the federal guidelines were released on May 13. Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods signaled he's ready to brawl over the issue, while Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens blasted the guidelines. Republican lawmakers have called on Deal and Olens to sue to block the guidelines, while others have threatened legislation to blunt their impact. The backlash continues to grow, while trans students talk about how they are harassed and beaten in schools.