Oklahomans weigh in on transgender bathroom discussion

Oklahomans weigh in on transgender bathroom discussion

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Oklahomans are weighing in on a hot-button issue across the nation concerning transgender access to restrooms at public schools.

On Friday, the Obama administration issued suggested guidelines from the departments of Education and Justice to public schools across the nation, stating transgender students should be able to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Now, Oklahoma is joining states, like Texas, and saying they will reject the Department of Education's suggestions despite the consequences.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says it's not that the state is against transgender restrooms, but says like Texas, they won't be bullied into supporting the guidelines. She says the government is using the threat of cutting federal funding as leverage for states to comply. She says the state always has the student's best interest in mind, and for that reason doesn't need the government to intervene.

"It is certainly not necessary for the Obama administration to intrude on local decisions that have the obligation and responsibility to care for the students. To make certain that we meet their needs and that each one of our students in Oklahoma have a safe environment," Hofmeister.

Martha Payne, whose son attends an elementary school in Altus, says she doesn't support the threat of cutting funding, but she does believe students who choose to live an alternative lifestyle should be accommodated.

"I mean, at least if there is their own restroom they can just go and do their thing and be done. You don't have to worry about it," Payne said.

Payne believes the other bathroom choice will help offer safety for those students.

"So, I think that would kind of help as far as being bullied or other people being scared, saying 'I don't want a man in the women's bathroom,'" she said.

While safety is Payne's primary reason for supporting the federal suggestive guidelines, Hannah Graham, a parent, says she's against it. Her daughter attends school in Hobart and she believes an alternative bathroom choice may lead to more problems among students.

"You can deal with it inside the schools. I do not feel that it should be made into a law, because then I think you're opening up a whole different realm of, like I said, possible other children taking advantage of that for their own reasons that may not be the healthiest reasons," Graham said.

The suggested guidelines by the government are not law and as of right now there's no timetable for when it will be implemented.

We did reach out to Lawton Public Schools, and they said after receiving the suggested directive Friday, they are still working on how to word their take on the federal guideline without "being insensitive to the transgender students."

The government's new guidelines won't affect bathrooms on the collegiate level, but Cameron University's Student Government Association did recommend a year ago that the university take a look at offering transgender students an alternate bathroom choice. As of right now, the university has opted to keep the restrooms the way they are.

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