SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa (KCAU) – Ethan Stucker said he has used the boys’ bathroom at Spirit Lake High School in northern Iowa for the last year and a half with no issues until this past Monday.
“So after school, I went down to the office and the guidance counselors told me that if I continue to use the male restroom that I will have to speak to the principal and will be disciplined for that,” said Stucker, who identifies as male.
Stucker is 16-years-old and set to graduate a year early from Spirit Lake High School in May, but this week he said he was told by teachers that he must use the unisex bathroom located in the teachers’ lounge or face consequences.
Stucker argued this violates both the 2007 Iowa Civil Rights Act and Iowa Department of Education guidelines.
So what made school officials change their course suddenly this week?
“They told me that there was no concern on safety, but it was rather a student’s feelings of maybe being uncomfortable in the bathroom with transgender students,” said Stucker’s mother, Jennifer Larson.
Nexstar’s KCAU9 asked the school for comment and High School Principal Casey O’Rourke provided the following statement.
We are aware of the request and are meeting to accommodate the matter. We do not see this as an issue as we are very sensitive to transgender issues.Casey O’Rourke, Storm Lake High School Principal
But Larson sees this as more than a transgender issue.
“It’s ostracizing those students and making them feel separate from everyone else and I don’t get how, the school is all about bringing us together and being one with the community and a one school equality thing, and this does not fall in line with what they claim they want to do,” said Larson.
Ethan started an online petition to allow transgender students to use public restrooms at Spirit Lake schools on Monday and it has received more than 1,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
“It really is important because there’s a lot of especially younger trans kids in the school who really need a safe place to grow up and the school isn’t providing that right now,” said Stucker.
Iowa Safe Schools released a statement Friday declaring the sudden policy change at Spirit Lake High School a violation of Title IX, the Iowa Civil Rights Act, and Iowa Department of Education policy. Iowa Safe Schools is an organization that works to provide LGBTQ and others safe and supportive learning environments.
Becky Smith, executive director for Iowa Safe Schools, said the school administration has been “treading” in a “realm” that has been settled by law for years.
“It’s clear that this initiative violates multiple state and federal laws. We are glad to see that the student is aware of their rights and hope to see civil rights protections upheld before the situation escalates.”
Iowa Safe Schools said school administrators’ dismissal of transgender students contributes to negative mental health outcomes, therefor they are working to address and correct the situation with the administrators of Spirit Lake high school.