Since Thursday, North Middle School eighth-grader Stephanie and several of her classmates have been protesting against two staff members who created a resolution calling for “anatomically-male” and “anatomically-female” bathrooms. They’ve hung up posters and written their pronouns on their foreheads. Stephanie’s worn a shirt that reads “What’s in my pants?” and started an online petition to remove the teachers, which has over 300 signatures.
Because her school is on a hybrid schedule, she can only protest at school, in-person two days a week.
“I’m also doing the protest with the other group of kids that go Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Stephanie said. “They’re also doing the same form of protesting.”
The two staff members whom North Middle School students are protesting against, assistant principal Rachel Damiano and 7th-grade teacher Katie Medart, put forward a resolution focused on “gender identity policies.” In a video posted on YouTube in late March, Damiano and Medart called for support in their response to what they called “polarizing” federal and state legislation and guidance for the LGBTQ community. Their resolution pushed back against recent policies as the federal Equality Act, Oregon Senate Bill 52, Oregon’s LGBTQIA+ Student Success Plan, and 2016 state guidance for transgender students.
In addition to calling for “anatomically” designated bathrooms (instead of bathrooms designated by gender), the resolution calls to require parent permission for a student to use a different name or change their preferred pronouns. The educators’ resolution expresses support for gender-neutral bathrooms “to the extent such spaces exist and are available.”
Both educators are currently on leave, and the Grants Pass School District said an investigation is ongoing.
Eighth-grader Stephanie said the educators’ resolution does not support students, especially those in the LGBTQ community, a community she identifies as a part of.
“To see that there were teachers doing stuff like that, it was really upsetting and it felt attacking,” Stephanie said.
“When working at a school, I feel like you should be doing it because you love the kids, and you want to protect them, and be there for them, and be there as a support system.”
She said the school should be a place where students feel safe to be themselves. Oregon’s 2016 guidance designates that some transgender students “may not want their parents to know about their transgender identity,” and recommends school districts accept students’ assertions of their own gender.
“For a lot of kids, there’s situations where there’s bad stuff going on at home, where school is their outlet, and you should be there to support them,” Stephanie said.
“To find out that there were teachers that were trying to go against that, and then put in transphobic rules at the schools, I thought it was absurd and totally out of line, and dehumanizing to a whole group of people.”
Stephanie said she’s received support from some classmates and teachers, but not every response has been positive.
“There are a lot of people at my school that are very unhappy with what I’m doing, then I had to see it on social media, which wasn’t that great,” she said. “But the support makes up for it.”
She also said she’s been reprimanded for writing her pronouns on her forehead, and for the posters at school.
There have been more than 90 signatures in support of Damiano and Medart, and they’ve submitted a public comment to the Oregon state board of education ahead of its Thursday meeting where the board will discuss ODE’s LGBTQ Student Success Plan. They ask ODE to consider the resolution statements as “verbiage options for gender identity policies moving forward” in the state.