Transgender bathroom rights coming to OPS?

Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 23:52:19-04

Nebraska is suing the Obama administration hoping to stop a directive that requires schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with.

The Omaha Public School district is reviewing its own policy. People on both sides have sharp opinions on this controversial issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court just last week announced it will take up a case involving transgender students and their rights when it comes to bathrooms.

Since OPS is Nebraska's largest school many are watching closely.

Eris Koleszar is a 30-year-old transgender woman born and raised in Indiana but currently lives in Omaha.       

She didn't come out and start transitioning until later in life.

“I never got to be a teenage girl-it's weird to go through puberty in your 30s,” said Koleszar.

In her hometown of 2-thousand being transgender would mean being an outcast.

“I lived in a very repressive environment where that kind of thing would not have been accepted,” said Koleszar.

That's the environment Koleszar doesn't want OPS students to be in.

She hopes the school board adopts a policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom they identify with not what's on their birth certificates.

“Everyday that OPS doesn't have a policy for trans kids there another out trans kid out there who has to teach their teacher or their administrator on how to correctly support them,” said Koleszar.

“What we need to do is provide clear and consistent direction to our staff and our administration that the same message is being delivered to all of our students,” said OPS board member Marian Fey.

Fey brought this issue up to the full board hoping to create a policy to ensure all students have the district's support.

“OPS has an opportunity to be a leader in this state, by crafting a really comprehensive, well-thought out, well-written policy,” said Fey.

But the policy faces sharp opposition.

"We continue to let you guys push this agenda up on our kids,” said policy opponent Gwen Easter.

“I would not want Chloe going into the restroom knowing there could be boys or men in there as well,” said Katherine Steinbock.

“Other people want to impose their theories and their values on us whether they are a taxpayer of this city or not,” said Larry Storer.

Nebraska Family Alliance Executive Director Karen Bowling said her group got involved when people complained to them about the proposed transgender bathroom policy.

“We recognize this is a very sensitive issue and we want to treat it as such,” said Bowling.

The group wants to ensure all students have their privacy.

“See if there's a way that we can provide an opportunity to provide all students a sense of safety and privacy without violating another student's privacy and safety,” said Bowling.

But Fey argues privacy and safety are two different issues, “Let's not imply intentionally or unintentially that allowing transgender students to use the facility and have full access of the gender they identify with is in any way related to creating an unsafe space because it's not.”

Koleszar says a non-discrimination policy protecting transgender students does not go far enough to make those students feel supported by their school district, “I want a world for trans kids where they feel safe where they feel seen, they feel supported and understood in their community.”

Fey said other districts are watching OPS before proposing their own transgender policies.

Currently the OPS policy review board is looking at the issue.

However the new school board will vote on whatever policy is crafted.