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Parents speak out at Atascadero school board meeting over locker room policy

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Posted at 6:58 PM, Sep 06, 2023

A recent letter from the Atascadero Unified School District regarding transgender students using locker rooms or restrooms prompted some parents to speak out at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

On August 22, 2023, Superintendent Tom Butler sent a letter to families clarifying the district’s legal obligations and its commitment to supporting all students.

For the past decade, the Atascadero Unified School District has followed California law that allows transgender students access to locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

The district stated in the letter that its schools are intended to be a safe environment for all children.

However, some parents questioned how this policy may impact their children.

“How are our daughters supposed to feel when a male student enters into their bathroom, or how is she supposed to feel when a biological male is undressing in front of her in her locker room where she is also supposed to be undressing,” parent Jenna Hall said at Tuesday's meeting.

The district's letter said that a recent court decision, Parents for Privacy v. Barr, reinforced that school districts should continue to follow state and federal guidelines regarding locker room and restroom usage by students.

“I know that those in support of trans students being able to use whatever locker room or restroom they want would say that those students deserve to feel safe too, and I agree. Again, I don't want any student to feel unsafe at any of our schools, but is the only solution really to only allow those students to feel safe?” Hall said.

“How are we fighting for the non-transgender community? I bet that there are more children out there that don’t identify with the transgender community that are scared to come forward,” said another speaker, Krista Stewart.

An Atascadero Unified School Board member stated at Tuesday's meeting that the district is solely trying to create an inclusive environment for everyone.

“Think about what you’re truly saying and how it affects individuals and people in our community because we all live here together,” said Matthew Pennon, Atascadero Unified School District Board Member. “We all want what’s best for our children and this is not a political situation. We are here trying to do what’s best for our students and our families.”

The district said that all of its students are entitled to fully participate in programs and activities, regardless of gender identity.

"Please don't allow yourselves to be bullied and to do anything but what is best to allow every student to grow into the best version of herself just like the law AB 1266 requires,” said community member Craig Sherburn.

KSBY News reached out to Superintendent Tom Butler on Wednesday for further comment but he was unavailable.

The district says that any student or family that has concerns about these laws should understand that this isn’t the district’s decision, but it is the law.