Here is another in our continuing series of things going on in Rochester.
The Sodus Central School District held a public forum on Tuesday night, and much of the debate centered around one sixth grade student. Parents were arguing about which locker room and restrooms the girl could use.
The student in question is transgender, and most parents at the meeting objected to her use of the girls’ bathroom and locker room.
After about 30 minutes of complaints to the district, the girl’s mother, Jennifer Surridge, stood up and addressed the room.
I would appreciate it if everyone took a minute to think what if this was your child,” Surridge said. “What if this child came to you and said, ‘Mommy, I’m not a boy, I’m a girl in here — nobody can see me for who I am.”
Surridge said that her child has told her this since the age of three.
“I had a lot of people telling me it was going to be a phase and she’ll grow out of it and don’t let her wear a dress,” she told the crowd.
After her child turned 11, Surridge said that it was time to let her daughter be who she is.
So far, the Sodus Central School District has remained supportive. Surridge’s child began attending school as herself on Monday and was permitted to use the girls’ bathrooms and locker room.
The accommodations from the district are good news for parents like Surridge, who may find that they have to move to another school district to avoid bullying and other issues at school. As many as one-fifth of families surveyed state that they would give up a garage or extra bedroom in a home just to move to a better school district for their children.
Other parents at the meeting, however, were less supportive.
“When you’re born, you have a birth certificate that says if you’re a boy or girl, what you’re born with dictates that,” said the father of a sixth grade girl.
Michelle Martinez, whose daughter is in the same class as Surridge’s, said, “I’m compassionate about what he is going through or she is going through, whatever… but my child has rights too.”
“We do believe that people are allowed to make their own choices and she is uncomfortable with it,” Martinez explained.
However, there is no real debate on the subject. The Sodus Central School District, like other districts across the state and country, cannot discriminate against transgender students without violating state and federal laws.
The district issued a statement on Tuesday stating that, “All students, including transgender students … are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX” of the federal Education Amendments of 1972.
But Surridge isn’t backing down from other parents just because they may be uncomfortable. Of her daughter, Surridge said, “She is an amazing child and she deserves people’s respect and acceptance, just like I would accept anyone in this room’s child.”