In the news: “School Safety” means GO AWAY

Dionne Malikowski talks to 7NEWS.

Transgender Student Suspended over Bathroom Use

“The 16-year-old high school junior told 7NEWS she was suspended about a month ago for violating the school policy by using a girls’ restroom instead of a staff restroom.”

Recap:

Dionne Malikowski, a 16-year-old female who is transgendered, was recently banned from using the girls bathrooms in Fort Collins High School. 

According to school district officials Dionne was required to ONLY use staff bathrooms because the school/district felt they could not create an environment where it was safe for her Dionne to pee in student facilities.  However, if you read between the lines here, Dionne was actually also being banned from using student bathrooms. 

PSD Board of Education President Nancy Tellez recently explained that Dionne was offered use of staff bathrooms in order to give her what every student has, something that approximates an equal opportunity:

“Its intent is to provide equal opportunity to all students. It would seem to me that every student should have the opportunity to use the bathroom.”  

But guess what?   One day when Dionne opted to use a student bathroom instead of a staff bathroom she was the one suspended from school…. for her own good.   Her equal opportunity was only ment to be available if she didn’t try to access things a normal student takes for granted, like a public bathroom.

Tellez went on to justify suspending Dionne for using the student bathroom:

Tellez said that she believes the requirement to use the staff bathrooms does provide an equal opportunity for transgender students, as seven staff bathrooms are spread throughout the school.
“I remember three different times when I was over there, and I found a staff bathroom to use in several different areas,” she said.

Okay so this school/district is looking out for Dionne’s safety right, they are advocates for her student/human rights.  They are somewhat aware of the potential violence she faces at school although their ongoing defense would suggest that they think that violence is acceptable, inevitable, and should be accommodated.

Here is the best quote illustrating that point:

“It’s a step backward to say it’s not safe, so they won’t integrate,” Raccuglia (a local advocate) said. “If a student were getting beat up in the bathroom for having red hair, they wouldn’t ban red-haired kids from using a specific bathroom.”

But really… the best the district can offer to create a safe educational environment for Dionne is to limit her rights to student facilities and suspend her if she refuses to be invisible?! 

On Friday Dionne announced she plans to transfer schools. 

So here are just a couple important equity issues this article brings up for me:

1. Gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers in the United States are far more likely to be harshly punished by schools and courts than their straight peers, even though they are less likely to engage in serious misdeeds, according to a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.(NYT link)   Suspending Dionne because you feel that your school is not a safe place for her to go potty is par for the course in this arena.

2.  LGBTQ students are at a much higher risk of skipping school, transferring due to hostilities, and ultimately dropping out of school altogether.  Dionne has now dropped out of Fort Collins High School, she says she is transferring… lets hope that happens.
• LGBT youth are 4.5 times more likely than non-gay peers to skip school because they feel unsafe
• 31% of gay students had missed at least an entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe based on their sexual orientation
• Nearly one-third of LGBT students drop out of high school to escape the violence, harassment, and isolation they face there — a dropout rate nearly three times the national average  (link)

3.  There are very real safety concerns for transgender students while at school.  Ordering Dionne to hide or be sent away does nothing to address the pervasive gender and sexuality violence going on in schools.
• 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school, and 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression. (GLSEN. (2001). The 2001 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
• 55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked. (GLSEN. (2003). The 2003 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)  (link)

When minority student safety = suspension and queer youth drop out of your program in order to get an education… 

I am pretty sure  your, intent to provide equal opportunity to all students, is a big fat fail.

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