As yet another bathroom debate began to brew in Michigan last week, a report released by LGBT rights advocates showed transgender students often avoid using school restrooms because they feel uncomfortable and unsafe, Newsweek reports.
“Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth and School Facilities,” a document published last week by the Movement Advancement Project, GLSEN, National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Education Association, found that 70 percent of transgender students said they’ve gone out of their way to not use campus bathrooms. Pulling in data from a 2015 survey of youth and a 2016 study of adults, the report mentioned that transgender people revealed they not only drank less but also developed urinary tract infections in their quest to skip the public facilities, Newsweek reports.
The pro-LGBT rights organizations involved in the report sent the statistics to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos along with an open letter urging her to reverse course and establish a national policy protecting students’ rights to use facilities that correspond to their gender identities rather than biological sex, Newsweek reports.
“On the surface, the argument is about bathrooms, but at a deeper level, it is about whether or not transgender students will be included in our public education system,” Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the project, said in a news release. “Put simply, if transgender students cannot safely access a bathroom, they cannot safely attend school.”
In February, just weeks after President Donald Trump took office, the White House rescinded guidance from his predecessor that instructed schools to let transgender students choose their bathrooms and implied that they could lose federal funding should they disobey. Afterward, reports emerged that DeVos had initially opposed Trump’s decision but ultimately caved, Newsweek reports.
On April 11, the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in a new case in Jenison, Mich., where a student claimed on Facebook that Jenison High School was not allowing transgender students to choose facilities based on gender, the Grand Rapids Press reported. However, the school district insists that it’s not discriminating. Transgender people can visit bathrooms that align with their sex, a gender-neutral toilet or unisex staff facilities, Newsweek reports.