Kino Ciel Stanfield, 20,a 2017 Pickens High graduate who started his transition after graduation, speaks during a school board meeting Monday to address transgender students’ use of school bathrooms. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Pickens schools drop controversial transgender bathroom plan

A plan by Pickens County Schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms of their choice has been rescinded, according a news released the district issued Wednesday morning.

“There have been many serious safety concerns raised in the past few days. School board members, staff, and students have been threatened due to the administration’s implementation of Adams vs. St. John’s County School District,” the board said through the press release, referring to a federal court ruling. “There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property.”

The district said it would “return to bathroom procedures in place at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year,” which allowed transgender students to use gender-neutral teacher restrooms.

The initial decision to let transgender students use the restroom designated for the sex they identified with, not their birth sex, came after the Florida federal court ruling, which is being appealed. Superintendent Carlton Wilson had cited the ruling as part of his reason, but announced at a town hall style meeting Monday that he would hold off until the board could discuss it further.

The board met Tuesday night in a closed session, and the press release came out Wednesday. School officials the Atlanta Journal Constitution contacted Wednesday declined to comment further.

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Department confirmed in a Facebook post that there have been reports of threats and bullying. These included a social media post that “referred to individuals that signed a petition making good target practice. Within an hour of the post, deputies were with the student and parents at the student’s home. Following the investigation, the student was charged as a juvenile with Disorderly Conduct,” the post said.

Capt. Kris Stancil, a sheriff’s department spokesman, said the juvenile “didn’t have access to firearms and his threat wasn’t specific. There are a lot of rumors floating around and I didn’t want to give weight to anything not true.”

Stancil said he hopes everyone calms down and gets back to normal. “This is a great community, with great people,” he said. “I think a lot of people are just letting their tempers get the best of them.”

At Monday’s meeting, which drew about 900 people, many appeared to favor having kids use the facilities associated with their birth gender. Some complained that letting students use whatever bathroom they wished would result in chaos.

When Cindy Daniel heard that the school board has reversed the decision, she said she got down on her knees and praised God.

She’s had two daughters go through Pickens County schools and one more in elementary school.

“Everyone’s trying to portray us as hateful, but I’m not prejudiced,” she said. “I’m just worried about the safety of the children.”

Tara Borelli, a lawyer representing the Florida student in the case that could also affect school policy in Georgia and Alabama, said what Pickens County is going through isn’t unusual.

“People fear what they don’t know,” she said, but as school systems across the country have been dealing with this issue for at least a decade, “none of the fears were realized,” she said.

Kino Stanfield agrees. He graduated from Pickens High School in 2017 and began transitioning to male shortly afterward.

“There was no policy or even an issue when I went there,” he said. “I used the bathroom in the nurse’s office, which was in the freshman hallway on the bottom floor. My classes were upstairs, but I made the sacrifice if I REALLY had to go.”

Now that he’s out of high school and can see a bigger picture, he said there’s more bullying in the restrooms done by heterosexual kids against each other.

With a very small number of transgender students at any school, he said the issue has gotten out of hand.

“At the end of the day it’s just a bathroom. You’re in there for less than a minute. Focus on the rest of the school day.”

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