Nebraska Board of Education transgender resolution fails with tie vote

Published: Jun. 2, 2016 at 10:54 PM CDT
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With state and federal policies on a collision course over the matter of transgender bathroom rights in Nebraska's schools, a resolution to leave the matter to local districts failed on a tie vote Friday morning.

Ever since President Obama declared that not allowing people to use the restroom of the gender they identify with is a violation of equality under Title IX, there have been discussions across the country.

More than a dozen people testified Friday in Lincoln on the resolution that would give school districts local control on the issue. Not allowing Nebraska students to use the restroom of the gender they identify with could mean fines and the loss of $400 million in federal funding to schools.

The board considered Patrick McPherson's proposal that called for local districts to set their own policy. "If you have a 12-year-old daughter, do you want her sharing a bathroom with someone of a different sex? I don't know that you do.”

That's why McPherson's resolution left the choice up to each school district. "My issue is not with them, it's not with whether they're transgender or not." He said this is for Nebraskan parents who are concerned about what their kids are exposed to at school."

Those against the president's stance say the schools are being forced to make exceptions for a few that will affect many and they used the crowds at Husker games to make their point. "In the 87,000 Memorial Stadium there would be about three transgender individuals," said Henry Burke. "Omaha, Nebraska would have 14 and Lincoln would have nine transgender individuals." Burke believes there are only 59 transgenders in the state of Nebraska.

"So this is not an ideal threat of litigation, there is active litigation occurring in other parts of the country," said the ACLU's Tyler Richard.

Eris Koleszar, a transgender woman, also spoke against it. "I think the stance is based in bigotry and fear. School is a difficult enough place for transgender students to navigate without having to worry about where they can safely perform bodily functions that are literally necessary for survival."

The U.S. Department of Education has said they'll revoke federal school funding to states that don't leave the bathroom choice up to the students. "Not by the overreaching federal government coming in and threatening poor school districts with the potential loss of money," said McPherson.

JohnCarl Denkovich, who works with a group to keep schools a safe space, knows the bathroom can be scary for some students who aren't yet out as transgender. He says one girl in Omaha has had eight kidney infections within two months after watching the news because she's afraid to use the restroom. "She just wants to be able to pee in peace and I think most people who are transgender want that for themselves,” said Denkovich.

Koleszar thinks the resolution would promote hate and violence. "I can't take watching anymore of my trans family die or be assaulted, or harassed or abused or kill themselves."

A petition was created on Thursday against the resolution. At last check it had about 200 supporters. A group of about 15 who oppose the resolution were in Lincoln.

The McPherson resolution stalled on a 3-3 vote Friday morning with two members absent. A majority was needed to pass. The vote was split along gender lines with the three women voting against the resolution and the three men supporting it. The two members who were not there are Molly O'Halleran and Maureen Nickles.

The school board will meet again in August.

Board Meeting - NET Live: