Bathroom policy does not draw Gwinnett crowd

Gwinnett County school board members seemed to try Thursday to appease some tea party activists worried about the school district’s position on controversial new federal guidelines for transgender students. A call for people to attend the meeting over that issue didn’t bring anybody, though.

The federal directive, released last Friday, requires public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. It does allow schools to make what they describe as individual-user options to all students who seek such privacy.

Gwinnett has been critical of the federal “overreach,” but said gender-neutral facilities are available for students who make such a request.

One tea party group sent emails to its members Monday week urging them to attend Thursday’s meeting to voice their opposition to the directive and to grill Gwinnett school board members about how the school district guidelines work. Wednesday, after reading Gwinnett’s statement, the United Tea Party of Georgia said Gwinnett had “taken a step in the right direction,” but they still wanted some clarification. No one showed to speak specifically about the issue Thursday.

Gwinnett school board chairman Dr. Robert McClure complained about the directive, which federal officials titled a “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students,” during a public hearing on the school district’s near $2 billion, which was adopted Thursday.

“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.

Gwinnett officials previously criticized the directive, saying in a one-page statement that such matters should be handled local schools.

The directive sparked a national firestorm over the topic, with praise in some corners and blistering criticism from others. The guidelines, while not law, warn schools that do not adhere to them could lose federal funding. Georgia receives about $2 billion a year in federal funds for education.

Gov. Nathan Deal, along with many Republican leaders, has called the directive a federal overreach. He’s directed state Superintendent Richard Woods, who’s echoed Deal’s thoughts about the directive, to give school districts advice about the guidelines.

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