Vermont high schoolers clash over transgender bathroom rules

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Destin Cramer and Noah Rice place a sticker on the door at the opening of a gender-neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, on May 17, 2016. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)
Destin Cramer and Noah Rice place a sticker on the door at the opening of a gender-neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, on May 17, 2016. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

High school students in rural Vermont are at odds with a new school policy that permits transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing.

The superintendent at Green Mountain Union High School announced the new policy last week after complaints about transgender student A.J. Jackson’s use of the boys’ bathroom sparked protests, according to the New York Times. Classmates argued that Jackson, who identifies as male, should be free to use the same bathroom as his fellow male students. Amid heated national dialogue over the transgender bathroom issue, one day after Green Mountain’s policy was announced, President Obama issued a similar directive to all public schools in the U.S., mandating that transgender students be allowed to choose which bathroom they use.

The new policy, however, has since resulted in counterprotests from students who feel that their opinions are being overshadowed by the demands of a small minority.

“It’s like me going into a girls’ bathroom wearing a wig,” 15-year-old Tanner Bischofberger, who disagrees with the school’s policy, told the Times. “It’s just weird.”

Bischofberger was one of several students at Green Mountain this week who sported a T-shirt with the words “Straight Pride” printed beneath the male and female stick figures typically used to demarcate public bathrooms.

Jackson, who was born female, says he realized in sixth grade that he actually identified as male. But, he told the Times, he’d only been using the boys’ bathroom for less than a month when someone made an anonymous complaint.

“I use a stall, and I wait till everybody’s gone to get up and leave,” Jackson told the Times. “The guys, they look at me like I’m some kind of freak, or they’re concerned or scared.”

The tensions unfolding at Green Mountain are just a part of the ongoing fallout from North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2. Better known as the Bathroom Bill, since its passage this March, HB2 has sparked nationwide debate over the rights of transgender individuals and whether states can regulate who goes to the bathroom where.

On the one hand, North Carolina has been the subject of backlash from the bill’s opponents, including a number of major corporations, musicians, Hollywood producers, and the federal government. But, recently, supporters of the controversial legislation have also been taking a stand throughout the country, boycotting businesses like Target for implementing their own, inclusive bathroom policies and even calling out people whom they (often incorrectly) perceive to be transgender.

As the Times notes in its story, the debate at Green Mountain could serve as a microcosm for how the rest of the country is responding to the transgender bathroom question.

“As we move forward as a community, there has to be compassion on both sides,” Deb Brown, a mother of one of Jackson’s classmates and a member of the Green Mountain school board, told the paper. “He needs to understand that this has been 15 years that students have known him one way. It’s obviously his choice, but maybe he should have respect for his classmates right now.”

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