ST. LOUIS — Three of the seven members of a suburban St. Louis school board have resigned amid a debate over a transgender high school student’s request to be allowed to use the girls bathrooms.
During a special meeting of the Hillsboro R-3 school board on Thursday, the four remaining members accepted the resignations of the board’s president, John Stewart, vice president Dan McCarthy and director Charles “Bo” Harrison, Superintendent Aaron Cornman said.
None of the letters — most of them only a sentence or two — stated specific reasons for the departures, Cornman later told The Associated Press.
Cornman refused to link the resignations to recent unrest over transgender Hillsboro High School senior Lila Perry, saying that doing so “would be hearsay and gossip, and I’m not going to enter into that.”
“What they wrote (in their resignation letters) is what they wrote,” he said.
Neither Stewart nor McCarthy immediately responded to messages left Thursday at their home phone numbers, and Harrison doesn’t have a listed number. Board members have not spoken publicly about the issue involving Perry, and Cornman said there have been no public votes by the board related to Perry.
Perry, 17, was born male but identifies as female and wears a long wig and a skirt to school. She has said she wants to be treated like other female students and told school administrators she wasn’t content continuing to use a gender-neutral faculty bathroom instead of being allowed to use the girls bathrooms. Perry this school year began using the girls locker room for gym class, though it was not immediately clear whether that was with administrators’ blessings.
Cornman declined to clarify that Thursday, telling the AP that discussing the matter could run afoul of student privacy laws.
Without first consulting the school system’s attorney, he said, “I won’t engage in any commentary directly relating to one student.”
However, he added, “to say we have a transgender student policy would be incorrect.”
During a board meeting last month, parents expressed concern that Perry was getting special rights at the expense of other students. And on Aug. 31, the dispute produced dual walkouts — one by the school’s gay-straight alliance and other Perry supporters, and the other by students opposing special accommodations for her.
At that time, Cornman said in a statement that the district respects the rights of all students and “appreciates the fact that the students we are educating are willing to stand on their belief system and to support their cause/beliefs through their expression of free speech.”
Cornman added that the district accepts all students no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation.
“We will promote tolerance and acceptance of all students that attend our district while not tolerating bullying/harassing behaviors of any type in any form,” Cornman’s statement read.
Perry has said the school administration has been supportive and made her feel welcome, though she insisted she didn’t want to be relegated to using a unisex bathroom.
“I am a girl. I am not going to be pushed away to another bathroom,” she has told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Cornman again said Thursday the board would work with the Missouri School Boards’ Association, attorneys and other educational interests “to bring resolution to this matter.”
“As a school district, we’re doing everything we can to provide an environment where all students have the opportunity to learn and be allowed to express themselves as young members of society,” Cornman said.
The school board’s treasurer was named its acting president Thursday.