Georgia schools chief ready to brawl over trans restrooms

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Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said his agency would “carefully consider” what to do with new federal guidelines about transgender students and restrooms. But his incendiary response indicated that trans students will come out on the losing end.

Woods (photo) blasted the guidelines in a WSB interview on Tuesday and followed that with a blistering statement on Wednesday, which marked at least the third time since the guidelines were released on Friday that Woods forcefully objected to them.

Woods reaction comes as Gov. Nathan Deal pushed the issue to him in a statement on Tuesday, asking that the state schools chief provide guidance to Georgia's 181 school districts on how to respond. Woods showed that the response likely won't be favorable to transgender students. Like many Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Woods invoked the fear-mongering of anti-LGBT conservatives who trumpeted the red herring of men invading women's restrooms.

His full statement issued Wednesday:

“We will carefully consider policy before making recommendations or taking actions.

With that said, my first priority is to ensure our schools are a safe environment for students. I believe there are safety concerns associated with allowing students of different genders to use the same bathroom. For that reason, I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom alongside students of the opposite sex.

We do not need the Executive Branch of the Federal government crossing the line and breaching its constitutional authority.  The issuing of such a blanket statement by the President on Friday was very irresponsible. We will not allow the federal government to bully us. Schools in Georgia have and will continue to appropriately address concerns surrounding this and many other issues.  Our schools will do the right thing.”  

In a WSB interview on Tuesday, Woods said the federal government was bullying school districts with the guidelines by threatening the loss of federal funds to school districts that don't take steps to protect transgender students.

“I don't see it as a mandate. I think for myself that I am not going to let the federal government bully Georgia by threatening us with the removal of funds. It is very irresponsible of the president and the federal government. We will fight this, especially if it means going after legal redress,” Woods told WSB.

Woods added that his office has been flooded with calls and emails since the federal guidelines were released. He also played misplaced fears about transgender students against low income and special needs students. The state receives about $2 billion in federal funds, Woods told WSB, and the money helps pay for free lunch and special needs programs.

“You want to take money away from the poorest of the poor kids or special needs children and hurt and harm their education,” Woods said. 

And then he repeated his fear mongering. 

“This is our safety and there are privacy issues. For myself, I don't believe we need to have boys in … with … going side by side with girls in a girls dressing facility or restroom or vice versa,” Woods said.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens came out strongly against the federal guidelines on Tuesday. To their credit, they didn't mention the same bathroom scare tactics that Woods and other Republicans have included in their denunciations of the guidelines. They also resisted calls to file a federal lawsuit to block the guidelines.

Republican elected officials across the state have denounced the guidelines and even state Sen. Josh McKoon – the champion of anti-gay “religious freedom” bills – has promised to draft legislation to address their fear mongering. The issue erupted Thursday in Fannin County when hundreds of people flooded a school board meeting to call LGBT people “perverts” and “pedophiles” that threaten the safety of students. 

All the while, opponents of the guidelines are using the same bathroom scare tactics that helped derail an equal rights ordinance in Houston last November and a similar one passed earlier this year in Charlotte. Nevermind that the bathroom predator myth – and it's exactly that, a myth – has been debunked over and over.


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