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Hofmeister requests binding AG opinion on restroom policies for transgender students

Linda Hicks

State schools superintendent and Democratic candidate for Governor Joy Hofmeister is asking for the Attorney General’s formal guidance on who can use which restroom in public schools.

The opinion will be legally binding for schools and “will provide the crystal-clear guidance sought” by Stillwater Public Schools related to transgender bathroom use for students.

Hofmeister asks seven legal questions in her letter to Attorney General John O’Connor addressed Saturday. They range in content, from legal precedent and laws about which bathroom transgender students can use, to the AG office’s ability to step in and defend policies of districts if and when they’re sued for barring transgender students from the bathroom of their choice.

O’Connor has indicated schools do not need to allow restroom access to transgender students corresponding with their gender identity.

Stillwater Public Schools had asked the state for guidance on which bathrooms a transgender student could use amid a local controversy. Without a state directive, the district’s leadership has indicated trans students won’t be barred from the restroom they desire to use.

Hofmeister says in a news release, a binding opinion from the AG’s office is the best course of action.

In Stillwater, transgender students are allowed to use whichever restroom best suits them. That policy has been in place since 2015 and the district hadn’t had an issue with it before this spring.

Interim superintendent Gay Washington wrote to Stillwater parents and students earlier this month that who used which bathroom had been a non-issue in the district.

"Central to some individuals' expressed concerns is a fear that allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom of their gender identity poses a danger to other students," Washington wrote in the open letter to the district. "Transgender individuals have been using the restroom of their gender identity in [Stillwater Public Schools] for many years, and the district has received zero reports of any transgender individuals behaving inappropriately toward anyone else in a restroom."

"The notion that transgender individuals are more prone to inappropriate behavior is categorically false."

Booting transgender students from the bathroom coinciding with their gender has become an important touchstone for a couple of state leaders currently running in Republican primaries, as the district has been repeatedly lambasted by O’Connor and Secretary of Education Ryan Walters for allowing students to use the bathrooms coinciding with their gender identity.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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