Durham, North Carolina’s Clarke High School has reportedly denied 16-year-old James Spencer access to the school’s men’s washroom. According to the Toronto Star, Spencer, who is transgender, came to the school to get away from constant harassment and bullying at his old school, but now feels that school officials have turned out to be the real bullies.
The student was first told to use the bathroom of a fast food restaurant next door while school officials worked on a solution. Now the school denies sending him off-campus, and says that he can use the women’s rest room or a private rest room that requires a key from the school office. Neither solution is acceptable to Spencer, who has collected the signatures of half the students in the school asking that he be allowed to use the men’s room.
“I thought, ‘They’re figuring it out, it’s temporary,’ but as time went on they’re portraying the message that transgender people are wrong and they need to be segregated. And I don’t sit well with that,” Spencer told the Star.
Spencer was born Samantha De Graauw, but in grade 10 began to transition to male. After undergoing intense bullying, the teen left Cobourg, North Carolina to live with his sister in Durham, where he entered school as James Spencer.
School district officials feel they’ve made accommodation enough.
“I think we have to be careful that we accommodate students as best we can, but we also have to be conscious that not everyone might feel comfortable with that at this point,” said school Superintendent Martin Twiss. “I think we have to do some education and some preparatory work to make sure that it’s managed in a way that everybody understands the situation and it’s managed safely.”
Spencer has been speaking to classrooms of students at Clarke asking them to sign his petition. Of the approximately 450 students he has spoken to, only three have refused to sign.
“I pretty much came out to the entire school with that petition and the students were phenomenal and I didn’t expect that much support or acceptance from the students,” he said. “But I also expected more support from the school board (and the) principal.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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