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Bathrooms and Showers: Tensions Bubble Over

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The media must have gone to Nancy Pelosi’s school of politics: We have to criticize the decision before we know what’s in it! Together with Hollywood, the hysteria over President Trump’s announcement on school showers and bathrooms is so deafening that it’s drowning out the practical effect of the move. Of course, that’s by design. Even liberals understand that Donald Trump isn’t taking away anyone’s “rights” — he’s restoring those rights to states! Still, Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education who helped force Obama’s mandate on schools, fanned the flames of misinformation with a piece in today’s Washington Post, which he called “The White House’s Thoughtless, Cruel, and Sad Rollback of Transgender Rights.” Rolled back? No. Rolled over to local leaders? Yes.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is as frustrated as the rest of us with the media’s mischaracterization of the administration’s letter. “Eighty-two percent of transgender children report feeling unsafe at school,” NBC’s Kristen Welker prodded at yesterday’s briefing. “So isn’t the president leaving some of these children open … to being bullied at school?” Spicer reminded her that most schools have anti-bullying policies in place. Welker pushed more. “So respecting kids is a states’ rights issue?”

To Spicer’s credit, he turned the question around on the media. “You’re trying to make an issue out of something that doesn’t exist. It was the court who stopped this in August of last year. So where were the questions last year in August about this? … We’re not reversing [the Obama administration’s guidance]. That is a misinterpretation of the scenario. The court stopped it. It enjoined it in August of last year because it wasn’t properly drafted, and it didn’t follow the procedures, and there was no legal basis for it in a law that was instituted in 1972.” So the president doesn’t care about transgender kids, Welker tried to imply. “You’re trying to send a message,” she went on. “We’re not,” Spicer fired back.

“The message is [the president] is a guy with the heart and understands the troubles that many people go through — but he believes the proper legal recourse is with the states. He believes in the state’s ability to determine what is right for their state versus another state. I understand there’s a difference with what people may or may not feel and the legal process and the law. The law right now doesn’t allow for it under Title IX that was passed in 1972. The procedure wasn’t followed. The court saw this in August of last year for a reason [when it blocked Obama’s order]. All we’re doing is saying that the proper place for this is in the states. So for you to suggest what message it’s sending is different. The state should enact laws that reflect the values, principles and will of the people in their state. That’s it. Plain and simple.”

Well, the media may not get it, but the American people certainly do. In today’s Rasmussen poll, only 28 percent agree with the Katy Perrys of the world who think the federal government should be able to force schools to let boys shower with girls, bunk with them on school trips, or share a bathroom. Sixty-four percent agree with the president that it should be a state and local decision.

And considering the feelings of girls like teenager Sarah Harrington, it’s no wonder. “When my school district made the decision to allow boys in the girls’ locker room and shower area, it made me feel that my rights didn’t matter. I should have a choice when a boy is in the room when I undress. There are sensitive accommodations for those who are struggling with these issues that respect the privacy, dignity, and well-being of all students, because every student matters. It’s common sense: Boys don’t belong in locker rooms or shower areas with girls.”

The New York Times insists the president didn’t live up to his promise to LGBT activists. But his promise was this: “I am determined to protect the rights of all Americans.” That includes Sarah Harrington and her friends. Or Kaeley Haver Triller and the thousands of other victims of abuse. She was sexually assaulted repeatedly in a shower as a child, and when she brought up her concerns about opening up locker rooms and bathrooms to both genders, she was told to “educate herself.” “As though reading a book or attending a seminar would somehow miraculously make it less dangerous for grown men to have unrestricted access to naked children or any less harmful for women to be told their needs don’t matter. Where was their education about the effects of sexual trauma or the manipulation of predators? It seemed to me that if they had experienced the same sobering education I did, then maybe this conversation would not be happening.” I challenge anyone to listen to Kaeley’s story (below) and not be profoundly moved by the threat these policies pose.

The only thing that’s “thoughtless, cruel, and sad” is ignoring real-life suffering like Kaeley’s to pursue a flawed version of “tolerance.” Bullying is a serious issue. But so is safety. And there’s a way for states to address both that doesn’t put more children at risk.

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