Schools should do the right thing for transgender students

Four weeks have passed since the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued guidance for schools regrading transgender students and the use of restrooms and locker rooms, and I’m still trying to figure out why opponents consider this such a big deal.

The truth is, no one is likely to notice if transgender men use men’s restrooms and transgender women use women’s restrooms. They’ve probably been doing it for years, and no one has objected. The same should be true for transgender boys and girls.

Not to get too graphic, but most people involved in this issue will be doing their business in restroom stalls, which provide a measure of privacy. Transgender boys won’t be using urinals, right? And neither will transgender girls.

Some critics have suggested it will be awkward to have transgender students taking group showers in locker rooms that they share with students who have different genitalia. But honestly, are there any schools where students still shower after gym class? I thought kids quit doing that years ago.

The most visceral response comes from people who insist that letting students use facilities that align with their gender identity will put young children at risk. The idea seems to be that transgender women may actually be men who are faking it – possibly child molesters who will put on dresses in order to use women’s bathrooms and prey on little girls.

Never mind that there have been no reports of transgender women doing anything like this. If a male child molester decided to try that trick, he would be violating all sorts of serious laws. A state statute that says he must use a men’s restroom wouldn’t be much of a deterrent.

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Voucher program growing – and changing

Indiana’s school voucher population is getting whiter, more affluent – and a whole lot bigger. That’s the conclusion to draw from a report on the voucher program released this week by the Indiana Department of Education. A few highlights:

  • More than 29,000 students are getting vouchers, seven times as many as when the program started in 2011-12 and a 46 percent increase from a year ago.
  • 61 percent of voucher students are non-Hispanic white, up from 46 percent in the first year. That’s despite the fact that most voucher enrollment is in urban areas.
  • Only 31 percent of voucher students are African-American or Hispanic, down from 44 percent the first year.
  • Three in 10 are from higher-income families that receive less than the full voucher amount, double the percentage in the first year of the program.

Indiana taxpayers are paying more than $116 million this year for tuition at 314 private schools – nearly all of them religious schools, and almost all of those Christian schools.

And vouchers are going to families that are far from poor.

For a family that makes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, students get 90 percent of what it would cost for them to attend the local public school, typically over $5,000 a year. (The amount is currently capped at $4,800 for grades K-8).

Students from families earning up to 277 percent of the poverty level qualify for 50 percent of the cost of attending the local public school. And they don’t lose the vouchers if the family’s income rises, up to 370 percent of poverty. Continue reading