By Anita Oh
SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa (CBS) – Some people never give the signs on the bathrooms a second thought, but that’s not the case for transgender students like Evan Petersen, a junior at Springfield Township high school.
“I definitely didn’t wanna use women’s bathroom, and I was scared to use the men’s bathroom because I wasn’t out at school yet,” said Peterson. “So I just didn’t go to the bathroom during the whole school day.”
“It’s awful it’s a very bad feeling,” said Christine Settino a teacher. “That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to do something and make change.”
Last week, the Springfield Township School District became one of the first in Pennsylvania to officially adopt a policy allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with, not the one on their birth certificates.
“We know this isn’t without controversy,” said Dr. Nancy Hacker, the superintendent. “But regardless, we wanted to make a statement that as a school district, this is who we are, this is what we believe, and we will support all our students, no matter who they believe they are.”
One critic, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, sent Eyewitness news a statement of its own that reads in part:
“In those areas, the only relevant reason we have different facilities is biological sex, not our beliefs, feelings, or attractions.”
But others say it’s a matter of equality.
“For the lucky ones of us born as the gender we identify as, we get to be who we truly are, so for some students who don’t feel that way, it can ruin their high school experience,” said Cate Ryan, student council president.
Other school districts across the state are also following suit. Lower Merion school district is expected to adopt a similar policy next month. They sent us a statement saying:
“Lower Merion School District is committed to providing a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students and employees. In this spirit, the District is proud to support a new policy that ensures gender-expansive and transgender students are provided equal access to District educational programs and activities in a school environment that promotes acceptance and respect.
Lower Merion School District has long advocated for and strived to ensure the well-being of gender-expansive and transgender students. The new policy is the result of extensive collaboration and consideration by students, staff, parents, Board members and community members. It is intended to affirm and bring awareness to the District’s position and to ensure clarity and consistency in serving all students in the most inclusive and supportive manner.
We are grateful to all those who have played a role in stewarding this important effort.”
The Philadelphia Mayor’s office of LGBT affairs says they’re working on changing the policy in Philadelphia schools.