“When you send your daughter to school – when you see her off in the morning – you have a level of expectation that you’re not going to be worried about them, that they’re not going to be exposed to something that you’re not aware of as a parent,” said Mark, a parent in Decatur, Georgia.
But City Schools of Decatur betrayed that expectation. And the consequences were exactly what parents had feared.
In July 2016, Mark’s wife Gena happened to be on Superintendent David Dude’s Facebook page and saw an interesting post. Superintendent Dude had announced that City Schools of Decatur would authorize students who identify with the opposite sex to use the restrooms and locker rooms that align with their claimed gender identity. Not only that, but they would be authorized to join sports teams and share overnight accommodations on school-sponsored trips with members of the opposite sex as well.
Alarmed by this announcement, Gena called other parents asking whether they had heard of the policy change. It quickly became apparent that the school district had not notified its students or parents about the change. Instead, the superintendent simply announced this policy quietly, on Facebook, during the summer months.
Is that how you would want your school district to communicate with you?
As you can imagine, Mark, Gena, and several other concerned parents were not happy. So they met with school district officials and the school board. They made phone calls. They wrote letters. They sent emails. But their concerns left school officials unmoved. The policy remained in effect for the 2016-2017 school year.
Finally, the school board put the policy on its meeting agenda in October 2017. Many people spoke, including the former chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles for the State of Georgia.
“Given his understanding of human nature, he specifically testified to his concern that this policy would be used by young boys to gain access to girls in private settings for mischievous purposes,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Allied Attorney Vernadette Broyles.
“And it was as if he was prophetic, because that is precisely what has happened.”
A month after the school board hearing, a five-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in the girls’ restroom by a boy in her class – a boy that was allowed to be there because of the new school policy.
Imagine your five-year-old daughter coming home from school and telling you that she was sexually assaulted in the girls’ bathroom. Now imagine going to school officials – the same officials who stand in your shoes as a parent during school hours – and being told that nothing is going to be done about it.
That is the horrible – and heartbreaking – reality that Pascha, this little girl’s mother, is facing. Pascha told school officials about the sexual assault on her daughter. And they didn’t investigate. They wouldn’t take the boy out of her daughter’s classroom. They wouldn’t assure her that her daughter—and other girls—wouldn’t meet him in the restroom again.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
School officials, the school district, and superintendent must be held accountable. That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom asked the U.S Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to launch an investigation into this incident. Thankfully, it has agreed to do so.
Every school district has a duty to protect the privacy and safety of its students. The City Schools of Decatur has failed that duty. It has failed Pascha and her daughter. And now it must be held responsible.
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In each of these cases, the safety, privacy, and equal opportunities for women and girls has been compromised in order to push a political agenda. But there is hope.