AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Human Rights Commission is once again looking at the issue of transgender students' rights in schools.
The issue first came to light in Orono in June of last year, when a biologically male student who identifies as a female was denied access to the girls' bathroom. The ommission ruled that the student was discriminated against under the Maine Human Rights Act. Now the Commission has drafted guidance to help educators deal with the issue in the future.
Maine Principals' Association Executive Director Dick Durost has spent the past week catching as much high school tourney action as he can. Athletics are one of the major concerns he has, when it comes to the proposed guidance from the Maine Human Rights Commission. The draft states that transgender students should have access to bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity, not their biological gender. In addition, transgender students should be provided with locker room accomodations that meet their needs, and allowed to play on the sports teams of their gender identity.
"One would be a biological female presenting as a male and situations where we would have safety concerns in male bathrooms and locker rooms," Durost said about his concerns. "The second issue would be biological males presenting as females wishing to compete on girls athletic teams, and the impact on the level of competition. "The typical high school biological male is bigger, stronger, faster, and we believe there could be an adverse affect on girls on the teams."
Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Patricia Ryan says the Maine Human Rights Commission issues this type of guidance to help people understand how it might rule on a case.
"The commission thought it would be beneficial to issue a guidance bulletin as opposed to regulations, so that people could be aware as to how the commission was thinking about this area" Ryan said
The commission discussed the proposal with educators and advocacy groups, including the Maine Principals Association and the Maine School Management Association. MSMA's attorney Bruce Smith says the proposal goes beyond what is in the current state law on sexual orientation discrimination.
"It's really an issue for the legislature to address that would be the best approach, but in the absense of that we think schools should be able to address these situations on a case by case basis" Smith said.
MSMA also takes issue with not being included in the discussion until the proposal was already drafted. Patricia Ryan says while MSMA may disagree with the language of the draft. It's input will be considered by the commissioners.
"We understand that they disagree with that decision but we think the process is a fair one" Ryan said.
The proposed draft has been sent to the commissioners, along with any written input from the groups in the discussion. It will be up to those commissioners to decide whether to adopt this controversial proposal. The commission will take up the issue March 1st.
The transgender student from Orono and the Maine Human Rights Commission both filed suit against the Orono School District in their case. The school district has asked that the suit be dismissed. The court has yet to make a decision.