School bathroom debate ignites in Howell

HOWELL, Mich. – A national issue is hitting Livingston County after a father learned that a girl was allowed to use the boys’ bathroom and only found out from his son.

An Obama Administration directive was issued May 13 by leaders at the departments of Education and Justice instructing public schools to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

READ: Letter on Transgender Students

Matt Stewart pulled his three children, all under the age of 10, from Southwest Elementary.

“My children are having to choose between embarrassment and intimidation,” Stewart said.

Stewart said his 9-year-old son had to use the bathroom with a girl who identifies as a boy. He said a staff member was present in the bathroom.

“She was instructed to look at the wall, don’t look, and there was a conversation with my 9-year-old about standing closer to the urinals.”

The father of four said the parents were not notified the district was implementing the directive from the Department of Justice and the superintendent admits parents were not notified until Stewart went to the media.

“I’m frustrated this wasn’t done prior to implementation so that as a parent I could have this discussion with my children.”

Howell Public Schools released the following statement:

“This is a new and rapidly developing area of law. Howell Public Schools intends to comply. Measures will, therefore, be implemented consistent with this guidance in a way which ensures the safety, privacy, and dignity of all involved.”

Stewart said his son was told he could use a single use bathroom if he felt uncomfortable.

“Our son was initially confused and he talked about this in a manner where he almost felt as if he was doing something wrong,” Stewart said.

There are currently 11 states suing the federal government.

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism