March 23, 2017
Headlines about school bathrooms have become pretty commonplace over the last year, but there was nothing common about what happened in Rockville, Maryland. In a horrifying story that's rocking the nation, a young 14-year-old girl was walking down the hallway when two older students in her class allegedly grabbed her, dragged her into the boys' bathroom, and took turns raping her. Later, after the arrests, police explained that the young men, who were enrolled as ninth graders despite being 17- and 18-years old, never should have been in the country in the first place.
According to reports, both boys crossed the Mexican border illegally last year. And although they were taken into custody by border control, they were allowed to move to relatives' homes until their deportation hearings. Last night, at a packed PTA meeting, parents were furious that more hadn't been done to protect students. "There are a lot of people here that maybe don't belong here," one said. "They haven't been checked out and I really need to know that my kids are safe." Others complained that the school admitted the students in the first place. Administrators were in damage control mode, explaining that the Supreme Court forbid schools from denying education based on a person's immigration status. Still, one attorney said, "There were long speeches from the principal, from the superintendent, from others who were associated with them explaining why this could never have happened when it did. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound to cure it."
Outside, members of the community held signs that read, "Safety for students" -- a rallying cry that's been on parents' minds since President Obama made school bathrooms and locker rooms a sexual free-for-all last spring. Suddenly, areas that should be safe and private aren't. And while school officials promise that they're more vigilant in monitoring the school, transgender policies like these only make that job more difficult. Some liberals argue that letting boys into the girls' bathroom isn't a big deal. But who knows if, in Montgomery County Schools where Obama's policy is in effect, someone saw this girl go into the boys' bathroom and didn't say something because of it? Administrators told Rockville parents to remind their kids that if they "see something inappropriate, they should immediately tell a staff member." That becomes infinitely more difficult when what's inappropriate has already been normalized! In the county's own guidelines, students are told to "foster understanding" -- code for students to look the other way when something seems amiss. Maybe a bystander would have been told, as the Pennsylvania junior was when he saw a girl in the boys' locker room, to "tolerate" it.
As I told members of the Texas Senate, who, like 12 other states, are doing everything they can to restore some semblance of safety to bathrooms, policies like Montgomery County's are dangerous. They ignore the deterrent value of the ordinary citizen empowered to sound the alarm when something appears out of place -- like a biological male in a girls' bathroom. Students may be less willing and less likely to "say something if they see something" out of fear they would be accused of "gender identity discrimination." Regardless of the circumstances, schools should be rushing to remove any obstacle that stands in the way of students and safety. It's what parents expect, and what children deserve.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.