Transgender Wake County students call for policy changes
Posted January 12, 2016
Cary, N.C. — A transgender Wake County student is looking for a policy change that he says respects who he is, and more than 500 people are already on board.
The designation on Hayden Riner’s birth certificate says female, but the former Wake County student says he now identifies as a male. The change, during his freshman year of high school, was difficult.
“I have been called many derogatory slurs,” said Riner.
Riner said a simple trip to the restroom was a big problem. He was not comfortable in the ladies room and the school did not allow him in the men’s room.
“And [they] told me, if I continue to use the men’s restroom that I would be suspended,” he said.
Wake County student C.J. Lewis is also transgender. He started a petition online to call for policy changes and support is growing.
“We want to live as a different gender, so we want to be able to use the bathrooms that are congruent with our identities,” said Lewis.
Director of Counseling at Wake County Schools, Crystal Reardon said federal privacy laws do not allow her to discuss individual student cases. This past summer, the district strengthened existing policies “to include a prohibition of any kind of discrimination based on gender identity,” she said.
Reardon said that the district is taking Lewis’ petition seriously and that school workers consider any student requests, but there is much more they also have to consider.
“We want to make sure they are safe themselves and we also want to make sure that any decisions we are making do not negatively impact any other students in the building and create an unsafe environment for them,” she said.
Hayden said administrators at his school gave him access to other individual restrooms, but that just added to the attention and questions.
“I would have to out myself as transgender,” he said. “I think it is important that people are able to feel safe at school.”
District leaders said Lewis’ petition contains helpful information to keep in mind for the future, but they said there are no plans for any additional policies.