Did school’s transgender bathroom policy lead to child’s sex assault? Feds investigate

The Department of Education is investigating whether a school’s transgender-friendly bathroom policy was a factor in the alleged sexual assault of a 5-year-old student in a Decatur, Georgia elementary school.
The Department of Education is investigating whether a school’s transgender-friendly bathroom policy was a factor in the alleged sexual assault of a 5-year-old student in a Decatur, Georgia elementary school. AP

The Department of Education is investigating whether the policy of a metro-Atlanta school district to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice was a factor in the alleged sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl, POLITICO reported.

The complaint says that a gender-fluid boy was allowed into the girl’s bathroom of a Decatur, Ga., elementary school and sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in the bathroom.

The complaint was filed by lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group that has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group said in a news release that its lawyers, along with a local attorney, filed the complaint on behalf of the child.

According to the narrative submitted to the Department of Education, the 5-year-old girl was pushed against a wall and groped by a boy who identified as gender-fluid and had entered the girl’s bathroom. The girl and the other student came back into the classroom and did not speak about the incident, but the girl told her mother what happened after complaining of pain in her genital area, according to the complaint.

The complaint says the school referred child service officials to the mother’s home and suggested moving the girl out of the class. The girl was eventually transferred out of the school by her mother because it was “unsafe,” the complaint says.

“A school’s top priority is to protect the safety and bodily privacy of its students, period,” said ADF-allied attorney Vernadette Broyles in a news release. “Decatur School’s policies have created a stressful, unfair, and, as in this case, even unsafe environment — particularly for girls. We are grateful that OCR is investigating this tragedy, and we hope the agency helps this school district and others adopt commonsense solutions that protect the privacy and safety of all students.”

Decatur City Schools called the allegations “unfounded” in a statement to McClatchy.

“City Schools of Decatur is committed to supporting all students. We are aware of the unfounded allegations made by the Alliance Defending Freedom. We fully disagree with their characterization of the situation and are addressing it with the Office of Civil Rights. As this is a pending legal matter, we have no further comment at this time,” City Schools of Decatur spokeswoman Courtney Burnett told McClatchy.

The complaint alleges three things that the Department of Education is expected to investigate: that school officials failed to provide an adequate response to the incident; that the school retaliated against the student’s mother by referring child services to her home; and that the district’s policy creates a “hostile environment for the students and other girls.”

The Department of Education wrote that it received the complaint on June 1, and that it would open its investigation into whether the policy and incident violated Title IX, which prohibits “discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department.”

A spokesperson for the department stressed, however, that the investigation would look into “any and all factors that may have contributed to a hostile environment,” according to POLITICO.

It’s the latest showdown in an ongoing cultural battle over bathroom policy. Former President Barack Obama wrote an advisory urging schools to allow students to use the bathroom that conformed to their gender identity, but that advisory was rescinded by the Trump administration in Feb. of 2017, the New York Times reported.

Jazmina Saavedra, a GOP Congressional candidate in California, recorded herself entering a bathroom in a Denny’s restaurant on May 15 to accost a transgender woman who was using the facilities.