New bathroom policy for transgender Peoria Unified School District students fails to pass

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Saturday, April 29, 2023 - 11:24am

Peoria Unified School District
Peoria Unified School District
Peoria Unified School District office.

The Peoria Unified School District governing board considered a bathroom policy that would have restricted transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The policy failed to pass Thursday night.

Jeanne Woodbury is the interim executive director of Equality Arizona, a nonprofit that advocates for the LGBTQ community.

Woodbury said conversations like the one at Thursday’s board meeting are “out of sync with the reality of schools,” which she said already have policies in place to accommodate those who might want or need it.

She also said this conversation is not new, and not over yet.

“The ‘bathroom question’ isn’t really where this stops,” Woodbury said. “Because it’s not even where it’s starting.”

Woodbury said she sees the shift in “anti-trans policy attacks” as happening when “the anti-LGBT movement realized that they had kind of lost the battle against marriage equality” in the mid-2010s.

On this week’s meeting: “I think the real significance of this school board meeting last night is that it reveals a lot of how anti-trans attacks are coordinated. Because we’ve been seeing this jump from school board district to school board district.”

The way these conversations are being had, Woodbury said, is too impersonal.

“We need to have ways for the conversations between parents and teachers, administrators, and elected officials to be more personal, more individualized, more specific to their schools,” she said. “And that’s something that needs to happen at that level. It doesn’t need to be a big conversation.”

Considering the policy, Woodbury said, produced more harm.

“Regardless of the actual policy outcome, by going around and disrupting school board after school board after school board, they’re creating a hostile atmosphere,” she said.

And according to Woodbury, that atmosphere will have consequences on educational outcomes.

“Kids are going to be put in unsafe positions, and potentially pressured to actually drop out of school,” Woodbury said.

Instead, Woodbury said she hopes to see more productive conversations taking place.

“It’s hard to not just get caught up in response and reaction,” she said. “There’s this great quote from Ursula Le Guin, which is ‘to oppose something is to maintain it.’”

Woodbury encouraged members of the LGBTQ community and allies to “[look] at who the actual agents of change are, what their personal motivations are” and “how for them, all of these issues intersect” because “they also intersect for us, too.”

One mother whose daughters attend school in the Peoria district said bathroom restrictions are needed to ensure students feel safe.

“My daughters should not have to hold their bladders because they do not feel comfortable,” she said.

Woodbury said she understands feeling fear in this situation.

“I have sympathy for anyone who feels uncomfortable going to the bathroom for any reason,” Woodbury said. “Because as a trans person I experience that all the time. And there’s legitimate problems associated with that.”

But Woodbury said the source of those problems is not the existence of transgender individuals.

“A big problem that many people are experiencing right now is that because of this decade of manufactured controversy and fearmongering about trans people in bathrooms, there’s people who have fear over something they don’t need to be afraid of,” she said.

Overall, Woodbury said she hopes the conversation will fully shift toward ensuring that everyone in Arizona’s schools feels safe and included.

“Spending a lot of time arguing about bathrooms is actually not very helpful because there isn’t actually a big problem with bathrooms besides the problem they’re trying to make,” she said.

Politics Education Social Justice