Transgender Students Avoid School Bathrooms Despite Health Consequences: Report

A sign protesting a North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina, on May 3, 2016. Jonathan Drake/Reuters

As yet another bathroom debate began to brew in Michigan this week, a report released by LGBT rights advocates showed transgender students often avoid using school restrooms because they feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

"Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth and School Facilities," a document published Tuesday by the Movement Advancement Project, GLSEN, National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Education Association, found that 70 percent of transgender students said they've gone out of their way to not use campus bathrooms. Pulling in data from a 2015 survey of youth and a 2016 study of adults, the report mentioned that transgender people revealed they not only drank less but also developed urinary tract infections in their quest to skip the public facilities.

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The pro-LGBT rights organizations involved in the report sent the statistics to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos along with an open letter urging her to reverse course and establish a national policy protecting students' rights to use facilities that correspond to their gender identities rather than biological sex.

"On the surface, the argument is about bathrooms, but at a deeper level, it is about whether or not transgender students will be included in our public education system," Ineke Mushovic, the executive director of the project, said in a news release. "Put simply, if transgender students cannot safely access a bathroom, they cannot safely attend school."

In February, just weeks after President Donald Trump took office, the White House rescinded guidance from his predecessor that instructed schools to let transgender students choose their bathrooms and implied that they could lose federal funding should they disobey. Afterward, reports emerged that DeVos had initially opposed Trump's decision but ultimately caved.

Activists were further troubled last month when the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia teenager whose school refused to let him use the men's rooms.

North Carolina also repealed and replaced House Bill 2, a roughly one-year-old act that in part made people in government buildings use bathrooms that align with the sex listed on their birth certificates, on March 30, according to CNN. Though the new law, House Bill 142, gives the power to regulate bathroom access to the legislature, some activists have criticized it for not going far enough to protect people's rights and forbidding the creation of local anti-discrimination policies.

But new legal challenges are constantly cropping up.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in a new case in Jenison, Michigan, where a student claimed on Facebook that Jenison High School was not allowing transgender students to choose facilities based on gender, the Grand Rapids Press reported. However, the school district insists that it's not discriminating. Transgender people can visit bathrooms that align with their sex, a gender neutral toilet or unisex staff facilities.

"We are all about providing a safe and secure environment for all our students," Superintendent Tom TenBrink told the Press. "We have been working with our transgender students to ensure they feel that they are treated with respect and dignity."