ORONO, Maine – Jasmine Smith, 13, is concerned that next year the fifth-grader at Asa Adams Elementary School who identifies as a girl will be changing in the girls locker room.
At a press conference Monday night in front of the municipal building, the seventh-grader said that because she has seen the fifth-grader in the girls bathroom after school she assumes the student will be allowed to use the girls facilities at Orono Middle School.
“That would be an invasion of the girls’ privacy and of my privacy,” she said.
Smith acknowledged that no teachers or administrators have told students the fifth-grader would be changing in the girls locker room or using the girls bathrooms at the middle school.
Smith appeared at the press conference called by Paul Melanson of Orono, who formally has objected to the practice of allowing a boy to use the girls bathroom at the school. Melanson said he asked Smith to speak at the press conference to show that although school officials had told him the fifth-grader was using a teachers bathroom, he was using the girls bathroom.
The name of the student for whom the bathroom accommodation was made has not been made public.
Smith said that she stops at Asa Adams, which is on the same piece of property that the middle and high schools are located, after school to pick up friends and has run into the fifth-grader in the girls bathroom in that school.
Efforts to reach school officials Monday after the press conference were unsuccessful. In the past, administrators have said that because of laws governing students’ privacy they cannot comment on the matter.
Melanson, who has custody of his grandson Jacob McGurn, 12, said that he intends to file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission over the matter. The grandfather said that not allowing McGurn to use the girls bathroom or the teachers bathroom as the other child allegedly does is a violation of his grandson’s right to public accommodation under the Maine Human Rights Act.
He claims his grandson is being discriminated against because he’s not allowed to use the girls bathroom, too. Filing a complaint with MHRC is the first step that would have to be taken before a lawsuit could be filed most likely in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
McGurn also is a fifth-grader at Asa Adams. He said at the press conference that he has been suspended twice this past school year — once for one day and another time for three days — for using the girls bathroom.
“I got discriminated against,” the fifth-grader said at the press conference.
Melanson said that in addition to the suspensions, administrators moved his grandson to a different teacher, he said, so that he was not in the same class as the boy who identifies as a girl.
“If a person has to be 18 to undergo a sex change,” Melanson said, “then that person should have to be 18 to use a bathroom for the opposite sex.”
Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, also attended Monday’s press conference. Heath is heading a petition drive to repeal gay rights laws and to eliminate funding for civil rights teams in schools around the state. He said Monday that what allows the bathroom accommodation at Asa Adams was the gender identity component of the MHRA.
“The effect of passing the referendum would be to remove this,” he said. “Then the law would no longer be on their side, and it could go back to the way it was.”
Melanson said that he would be at the polls in Orono with a petition today.