Your View: Transgender rights bill tramples children’s rights

Your View: Transgender rights bill tramples children’s rights
Deborah Furtado is a retired New Bedford elementary school teacher who still lives in the city.
June 08, 2011 12:00 AM

Let’s talk about the Transgender Bill HB 502.

First, it is common knowledge that this bill has failed to pass for six years because legislators are acutely aware that citizens across the state have serious concerns about their safety, privacy, level of personal comfort and modesty if men are allowed into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

It is my opinion that it is the responsibility of legislators to promote the common good. This bill would detrimentally change the standards of bathroom usage for 99.95 percent of the general population. Four decades of research by the Amsterdam Gender Dysphoria Clinic maintains that five/one hundredths of 1 percent of the general population is afflicted with gender identity disorder.

It saddens me to the depths of my soul and conscience about the detrimental and far-reaching consequences of HB 502 on our very young students. Studying this bill, talking with other educators, conversing with friends, speaking to various legislators and applying common sense logic to what is suggested through HB 502 (The Bathroom Bill) convinces me that the individual rights to complete privacy of our young children in school bathrooms would be trampled. This bill presents a moral outrage and injustice to our children instead of ensuring that their basic rights to complete comfort and privacy are upheld while at school.

Young children have the right to use bathroom facilities and locker rooms in complete comfort and privacy in our public schools. It is understandable that many would not feel relaxed, happy and comfortable sharing bathrooms with transgender individuals and I personally believe they shouldn’t be required to do so in our public schools.

Furthermore, studying the ramifications of this bill, offering basic commonsense ideals, complete understanding, and personal human empathy to all our students, and I reiterate, all our students, I am concerned about the negative and dangerous impact of this bill on young children. It would be extremely unsettling and confusing for small children to see individuals of the opposite sex using the restrooms while they are in the restroom.

I know from teaching young children for so many years that they are so innocent. Seeing an adult or older child dressed very differently, especially in and around the school, would be extremely frightening to many young children, not to mention the comfort level of other adults using public restrooms.

My thoughtful question is, how would classroom teachers be expected to respond to or comfort children returning to class who are upset, nervous, curious, agitated, confused or unsettled about what he or she has seen there? What does the classroom teacher need to do to protect the emotional well being of all the students in the public school setting? You must keep in mind that our teachers are entrusted with the safety and well being of all the students under their care. It is evident that HB 502 does not take into account practicalities that face educators in Massachusetts.

Adequate safeguards for our students are not provided in this bill. Are we going to require school administrators to be on “potty patrol” so students can use the facilities in comfort and privacy while they are in the care of our cities and towns? Who will be liable when something goes terribly wrong?

Next, the passing of this bill would open our school boards up to a tremendous amount of litigation, such as happened in Orono, Maine, where a fifth-grade boy had been using the girl’s bathroom due to gender issues. School officials, in an attempt to accommodate all students and protect the boy from harassment, created a completely separate bathroom for the boy. The boy’s parents petitioned Maine’s Human Rights Commission to demand access for him to the girls’ room. The school lost the battle. It is common sense that this precedent in Maine would certainly impact litigation in Massachusetts over HB 502. Furthermore, the civil rights of all our citizens must be maintained at all times.

This bill is a recipe for disaster and student abuse, not to mention laying additional financial and human burdens on school staff. But most importantly, it will put the emotional and physical health of our youngest children at risk. Having spent most of my adult life as a teacher, I maintain that this bill is an outrage and an injustice to children. The premise of creating a perfectly equal society is an excellent goal, but HB 502 wouldn’t provide the appropriate outcome. It’s a disaster in the making for all ages of our population, from young children to the elderly. Legislators are aware of this and must continue to vote it down. I propose that they do it again.

This column originally appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times newspaper.

Copyright © 2011. Dow Jones Local Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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