School bathroom policy not changing says Kenworthy

OKEECHOBEE — In response to backlash on social media to the Okeechobee County School Board adding gender identity to their non-discrimination and prohibition of harassment policies, Okeechobee superintendent of schools Ken Kenworthy says concerns on how the new policies will affect the school districts bathroom rules are misplaced.

Okeechobee Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy

“Our bathroom policy is not changing,” explained Kenworthy. “That’s not our intent. It seems like kind of a leap to come to that conclusion with what was passed. The only intent was to not discriminate.”

It wasn’t long after the article about the updated harassment policy was posted on the Okeechobee News website, that commenters started voicing their concerns that a transgender student would attempt to use the same restroom as their children.

“So basically what you are saying is that any guy in school now can say he identifies as a girl and he can now use the same bathroom or locker room as my daughter,” one commenter expressed.

“Unbelievable! What a disgrace! We need to start a protest,” read another. While others worried this would lead to increased sexual harassment in school bathrooms.

But according to Mr. Kenworthy, they’ve had to deal with the issue of gender identity and bathrooms long before the new discrimination polices were passed on July 10.

“I think people would be surprised to know that this has been going on a long time,” Kenworthy said. “If someone comes to us with this issue, we’re able to sit down and figure out a solution. We’ve dealt with this situation before and we have single stall and private bathrooms on our school grounds.”

“Again, our only intent with the policy was not to discriminate,” continued Kenworthy.

“The most recent statistics in the Florida youth risk behavior survey show that almost 16 percent of students in this state identify as LGBT. We need to do everything in our power to make sure those students are not discriminated against and feel welcome. It’s not my place to get into the whole philosophical debate, whoever wants to decide to have that.

That’s not my position and I won’t take a stand on that. My position is to make sure every kid who walks into our school is safe, and has the ability to learn. That’s my objective.”

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