A Georgia school district has reversed course on its transgender inclusive bathroom policy after administrators say they received death threats over the new guidelines.
The Pickens County School District cited “many serious safety concerns” in a Wednesday statement that explained its decision to stop permitting trans students to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity.
Transgender students in the district, which is located about 60 miles north of Atlanta, will now be allowed to use single-stall private bathrooms formerly reserved for teachers and other staff.
“There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property,” school officials wrote in the statement. “The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the District has concerns that it may not be able to meet these recently increased demands.”
The announcement came two days after a heated school board meeting about the bathroom policy reportedly drew almost 600 people, a sizable showing given that Pickens County has just over 30,000 residents.
Those who spoke out during the three-hour meeting were fiercely divided on the issue.
“I would never in my life use a restroom in which a female is in,” Nathan Barfield, a father of two, told WXIA, an Atlanta-based NBC affiliate. “No person’s rights are more important than anyone else. My son has a huge heart and he doesn’t want to say anything for fear that he is going to be labeled a bully.”
Kayla Hollyfield, however, felt differently.
“You should be able to use any restroom that you want to use,” she said. “This is not about left or right. It’s about equal rights. It’s not an agenda.”
The Pickens County School District began allowing trans students to use bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity at the start of this school year.
The policy, Superintendent Carlton Wilson has said, was implemented after a federal court ruled in 2018 that 16-year-old Drew Adams, who is transgender, should be allowed to use the men’s room at his school in St. Johns County, Florida.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided the case, also has jurisdiction over Georgia and Alabama. St. Johns County, however, has since appealed that ruling. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the appeal hearing is scheduled for December.
Wilson told WSB-TV that he was disappointed by the anti-LGBTQ sentiment that was expressed by many parents at Monday’s meeting.
“The way some called names has been embarrassing and disappointing to me, and that’s hard to get over,” he said. “They’re kids. They are all kids and none deserved to be treated the way some of them have been treated.”