OCPS responds to transgender directive

Orange County Public Schools announces it will follow federal guidelines, but its office of legal services is looking into the school system’s policies.

  • By
  • | 2:00 p.m. June 1, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • News
  • Share

WEST ORANGE Orange County Public Schools will continue to examine its policies following the May 13 U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education directive regarding transgender students.

The joint letter, which does not carry the force of the law, advised schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correlate with their gender identity and to refer to students with the pronoun they prefer. Failing to comply could result in loss of federal funding, the letter said.

It remains unclear whether Orange County transgender students will be able to use the restroom that correlates with their gender identity. 

“How this is going to change things — it’s still evolving,” said Lorena Hitchcock, senior specialist of media relations at OCPS. “That transgender students are going into either of the opposite sex restrooms at this moment, I don’t know if that’s going to be accommodations at the school. That is something that we’re working on. Those students, we are providing them with services.”

Currently, parents provide information about their child to the school, according to Shari Bobinski, senior manager of media relations at OCPS. The school and district then work with the family to provide mutually agreed upon accommodations. 

“It means we work with the family and all parties involved to come to a mutual decision on what accommodations are made,” Bobinski said. “Not all families feel the same way, so each case is addressed based on what all parties agree to in each individual case.”

The services students receive are based on the students’ situations. Some students are given accommodations to use faculty restrooms or similar services.

In an official statement, the district said the directive does not change its current practices.

“OCPS has been and continues to follow all federal guidelines and cases regarding gender equity and gender identity,” the statement read. “At this time, the letter issued … does not modify or change any existing practices within OCPS.”

OCPS’ office of legal services currently is looking into the system’s policies.

Some local parents are in favor of the directive and hope it applies to OCPS.

“As an OCPS parent and former teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with Obama’s directive,” said Diahann Messeguer. “It’s 2016 and enough with bullying. Stop with the ignorant thinking, and stop making big deals out of nothing.”

However, the directive is unnerving to other parents, such as Lauryn Boyd Lane, whose 9-year-old daughter attends Tildenville Elementary School.

“Kids at the elementary age and middle-school age, I don’t think they should be exposed to (that) …I think it’s too much for them right now to be able to understand why everything’s going on the way it is,” said Boyd Lane, who hopes the district will keep boys out of her daughter’s restrooms and future locker rooms. 

Other parents have chosen alternative ways of schooling their children to avoid situations such as this. 

“One of the main reasons I homeschool is the government’s overreach into the educations of American children,” said Mindy Hungerford, a Winter Garden resident who chooses to homeschool her two sons. “Many, many families have chosen to homeschool for fear of exactly what’s happening.”


After graduating from Ocoee High School, Kendall Butler transitioned to become a transgender woman. But while she was in high school, she noticed many of her peers already accepted her as a female. 

Butler, now 22, is glad to see support for a transgender person to be able to use the restroom he or she chooses but suspects the controversy isn’t coming from peers. 

“I have no doubt that a lot of the controversy is from the parents on this issue,” Butler said. “(I think) the parents should be more accepting, because the kids already are.” 

Butler rarely has experienced pushback when inside a restroom. Kendall Butler’s mother, Julie Butler, supports her but also has noted her daughter’s lack of issues with entering restrooms in the past. 

“As far as public schools having a safe place for a transgender person to use the bathroom, I’m all for it,” Julie Butler said. “In that same breath, a lot of public schools have bathrooms that are single bathrooms. They aren’t all multiple-stall bathrooms. … I think they’re making a big issue about something that’s been going on for years and years and years.”

She also does not support the method by which President Barack Obama is addressing the issue.

“My whole problem with the president stepping in is No. 1, anybody who’s ever attended any kind of history class knows that’s not the way that works, for the president to step in and say, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do, and here’s what’s going to happen,’” she said. “That’s not how that works. So many people in the Senate and Congress are opposed to — for lack of a better term — letting transgenders be like everyone else, that I don’t think his directive will ever come to fruition.”


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].


Latest News