MYERSTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – The Eastern Lebanon School Board has directed the high school to close the male and female locker rooms due to a concern made by residents regarding a transgender student.
The decision to do so is coming with intense reaction from the community.
“Our area as a whole, we could have really learned a lot through problem solving in the community and now were further divided,” said parent Bevan Allen.
It is a move some parents in the community agree with, for different reasons.
A Facebook commenter reacted to the decision saying “Glad they are taking steps to eliminate the insanity of boys thinking they are girls and girls thinking they are boys.”
Another parent, David Noyes, said his biggest concern is the politicization of kids’ education. He added that a lot of citizens have dug their heels in on one side or the other instead of coming up with a solution.
Another parent, Michelle Salem, said kids are just getting changed and she doesn’t think anyone is “scoping” someone out.
“You know, they’re hoping that they can get changed in enough time to make it to their next class on time,” said Salem.
She said in her daughter’s perception, “none of the kids that had gym class with this particular student seem to be bothered by this.”
abc27 reached out to the district superintendent who provided the following statement:
“On April 17, 2023, the ELCO School Board directed the administration to close the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms for physical education classes at the High School, effective Monday, April 24, 2023. Last week, those students who have Physical Education classes this semester were informed of the impending closure. The School Board enacted the directive to provide time to explore options that respect the confidentiality and privacy of all students who use the High School locker rooms during the school day. At this time, a locker room policy has not been adopted by the Board. Rather, on April 17, the Board directed the administration to close the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms for physical education classes at the High School until further notice.
Once the administration has further direction from the School Board, we will proceed accordingly. The community’s response to the Board’s decision has been mixed, with some supporting the decision to close the locker rooms and others expressing dissatisfaction with the decision. The locker rooms will remain available to our athletic teams for use after the school day for established time periods. We realize the closure will require an adjustment among some of our students. The District continues to value the cooperation and patience our community has generally demonstrated, as the Board considers the needs of all district students and establishes a plan moving forward.”Mrs. Julia Vicente
Professor of Law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School, Michael Dimino, added that the decision made by the school board does not necessarily violate federal law since all students are affected by it.
“What the people are going to argue here is that these locker room facilities were closed down because of sex or sexual orientation. What the school district is likely to argue is that there’s no discrimination going on here because everybody’s being treated the same,” said Dimino.
The letter sent to parents with children attending the school is below.
“Dear Families of ELCO High School Students,
On Monday, April 17, 2023, the Board of Directors of the Eastern Lebanon County School District directed the administration to close the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms at the High School during the instructional school day, effective Monday, April 24, 2023, and continuing through the last student day of the 2022-2023 school year, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Locker rooms will remain available for use by athletic teams after the school day for time periods established by the District Administration.
This directive has been enacted to allow the Board to consider options that respect the confidentiality and privacy of all students who use the High School locker rooms during the instructional day.
On Tuesday, school personnel collaborated to discuss the logistical details of implementing the directive to close the locker rooms during the instructional school day. Today, students currently enrolled in a Physical Education class were informed of the impending closure and the associated procedures that will be in place in preparation for the closure to begin on Monday, April 24, 2023.
How does the locker room closure impact students currently enrolled in a Physical Education class?
Students currently enrolled in Physical Education courses at the High School will be expected to remove the contents of their locker room locker by Friday, April 21. (Student-athletes will be able to continue to maintain athletic equipment in the locker rooms.) On Friday, April 21, school-issued locks will be collected from students.
Students currently enrolled in a Physical Education course must come to school dressed in clothing appropriate for Physical Education class starting on Monday, April 24. Proper attire includes comfortable clothes that do not restrict movement and meets dress code requirements previously outlined by the Physical Education teachers. Students will be permitted to change their shoes for Physical Education class and are required to have socks and appropriate shoes in order to participate in class. Students may not change clothes in restrooms or other parts of the building before, during, or after their Physical Education class. At the start of the class period, students will meet in the gym and will store personal belongings in a designated location that is monitored by security cameras within the gym area.
How does the locker room closure impact student-athletes currently participating on a sports team?
Locker rooms will be available to student-athletes before and after the instructional school day for those needing to store athletic equipment for practices and games. The locker rooms will be closed at 7:35 a.m. each morning, so student-athletes must drop off their equipment in the locker rooms before reporting to their first-period class.
Student-athletes who arrive late to school may leave their sports equipment in the main office for the day when signing in late to school, as the locker rooms will not be available during the school day.
On days when student-athletes need to leave school early for an away athletic contest, the locker rooms will be opened by designated personnel to allow student-athletes to prepare for the contest and will be relocked upon the team leaving for their competition.
We realize this closure impacts the daily routine of students, who will need time to adjust to the new procedures for Physical Education classes, and as such, we appreciate everyone’s cooperation as we work to comply with the directive to close the locker rooms at the High School during the instructional school day.”