Transgender student wants Chesapeake schools to change policies
Dan Barnum, a 16-year-old sophomore at Oscar Smith High, has struggled with his sexual identity his whole life. As a child he was Abby — a girl who preferred playing with trains and Hot Wheels cars and hated wearing dresses.
It was shortly before freshman year that Barnum began doing research online and came to a realization: I am transgender. The teen walked into Oscar Smith on the first day of school and announced that his name was Dan.
GOPUSA Editor’s Note: Guess what? Abby is still Abby. No matter what this “journalist” writes, biology is biology. This story is about a female, and regardless of what the left and the media try to do, it’s important to realize that this is NOT normal behavior. And the media keep trying to shove this behvior down our throats.
The school accommodated Barnum’s request to use the boys restroom. But at times when he’s been in a stall, he said, boys have hammered on it, making him so uncomfortable that for a while he stopped using the bathrooms at school altogether.
When he needs to change, he goes to the nurse’s office instead of a locker room. He senses students laughing at him.
“It’s like a march of shame,” he said.
“Pedophile,” “abomination” and “tranny” are just a few of the terms that have been hurled at him.
“Some of the things people said are horrific,” he said.
But Barnum refuses to be cowed.
At the School Board’s most recent meeting, he made a request. Days after the federal government released guidance for all schools regarding transgender students, he asked the board to adopt policy language specifically addressing such students.
The division already prohibits harassment and discrimination against students, and violators face serious consequences. But Barnum thinks adding specific gender identity language could lessen the stigma that transgender students face from their peers.
“I do it for all the kids who had struggles like I did,” he said.
Despite the harassment he has endured, Barnum can point to bright spots in his experience at Oscar Smith. He enjoys being in the marching band and has good friends. Teachers have been “great” he said, and his mother uses words like “excellent” to describe the school’s administration.
Recently, Barnum started a petition calling for, among other things, stricter penalties for harassment in restrooms. He gained more than 100 signatures around school, including supportive staff members, he said.
But he also heard slurs from some students. That bothers Dan’s father, Jeff Barnum. But what really upset him are the suicide statistics among transgender people.
The Williams Institute, based at UCLA, conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law. According to a 2014 report by the institute, more than a dozen surveys of transgender adults since 2001 found that between 25 percent and 43 percent had attempted suicide. Less than 5 percent of the overall U.S. population report a suicide attempt in their lifetime, the institute said.
“That terrifies me,” Jeff Barnum said.
Chesapeake’s school division has policies “that protect all of our students from harassment and discrimination,” a spokeswoman said in an email. “Any decision in a student matter will be made based on the circumstances of the situation to include what programs and facilities are available or can reasonably be made available to serve the educational and social needs of the student while protecting the privacy and rights of all of our students.”
A section of the School Board policy manual that addresses harassment of students says: “Harassment and discrimination committed by or against one or more students by either students or School Division employees and based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law are prohibited.”
Anyone found to violate the policy faces discipline, including, for students, possible expulsion.
A separate section states, “The School Board is committed to the principle of equal opportunity for all and does not permit discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.”
Other school divisions, including Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Norfolk, specifically include gender identity in nondiscrimination policies. Equality Virginia, a nonprofit that works in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, estimates 25 percent of students and employees in Virginia are in divisions with some form of specific language protecting sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
That percentage is growing rapidly, though, the organization said. Suffolk’s School Board voted this spring to add such language, and that move will take effect July 1.
“I think our particular policy speaks to nondiscrimination for everybody,” said Judith Brooks-Buck, a Suffolk board member.
Heather Barnum, Dan’s mother, said spelling out the policy sets a tone.
“We need to accept humans, and if that means we need to put a word in a policy, than so be it,” she said.
The guidance last month from the U.S. Education and Justice departments lays out how they think school systems should treat transgender students with regard to bathrooms, locker rooms, athletics and a host of other areas. Eleven states, however, have filed a joint lawsuit challenging the guidance.
Barnum realizes he may be elsewhere by the time the matter is resolved. He plans to be home-schooled next year, in part because of the harassment he says he has endured. He hopes he will be able to graduate early and move on to college.
He said he knows of other transgender students in the division, and that’s why he thinks his request to the Chesapeake School Board still matters, even if change comes after he’s no longer at Oscar Smith.
“If I can do it for the kids in the future, I will,” he said.
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