• Will TN’s Department of Education Flush Biological Differences down the Toilet?

    David Fowler - March 04, 2016

    When I got into state politics 22 years ago, I never thought I would see the legislature having to debate certain things like who can use a bathroom designated for males. But perhaps the most shocking thing of all is that the Tennessee Department of Education is officially okay with our public schools allowing boys to use the restrooms and locker facilities designated for girls.

    A bill will be heard next Tuesday in the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee that would prohibit our public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools from allowing someone of one biological sex to use the facilities designated for use by those of the opposite biological sex. It does allow those educational institutions to construct or allow sex-confused students to use a separate bathroom or locker room facility.

    Please understand why I state the issue so bluntly. When it comes to our younger children, all a boy needs to do in order to walk into a girls’ restroom is to verbalize a desire to be treated as a girl. Don’t believe me?

    Here’s what the American Psychiatric Association’s new, Fifth Edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says:

    “For a person to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, there must be a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months. In children, the desire to be of the other gender must be present and verbalized.”1

    There you go. All that needs to happen for the 8-year-old boy to use the girls’ bathroom is for him to have a verbalized desire to be treated as a girl. Case closed.

    But the Department of Education is working overtime to kill this bill. It is giving reasons so bogus it is laughable.

    Its first argument is that federal law requires it because of a “significant guidance document” issued by the U.S. Department of Education. Two federal district courts have already ruled that the publication is not the law and that the law does not require what that document recommends.

    Second it argues that the U.S. Department of Education will withhold certain federal funds under Title IX from our schools. But under Title IX, the federal government cannot withhold those funds until an administrative appeals process has been concluded, and even then, the federal government must give the state thirty days to comply with the administrative ruling. No funds provided during the administrative process have to be paid back, even if the state loses.

    The bottom line is the Tennessee Department of Education’s official position is that it is okay if local schools want to allow biological males to use bathrooms and locker rooms designated for biological females. According to the Department, local schools should be allowed to do that because the state believes in local control. Yeah, right. And that’s why we have so many laws telling schools what they can and can’t do.

    I’m sure the Department would say my characterization of its position is not true, but as Ryan Anderson said this week about the South Dakota Governor’s veto of a similar bill passed in that state:

    “Ask yourself: Why do we have girls’ locker rooms and boys’ locker rooms in the first place? We have sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms not because of “gender identity”—however one defines it—but because of biology. Men and women have bodily differences, and that’s why we have men’s rooms and ladies’ rooms. It’s not about gender identity, but biology—and protecting privacy related to our bodies.”

    The Tennessee Department of Education needs to stop hiding behind all these specious arguments and develop an ethical spine regarding human sexuality and biology. It needs to say that there is something true about the nature of human biology or there is not, and then support policies accordingly.

    Let’s hope the House’s subcommittee will respect the biological differences between the male and female bodies and the value of modesty and send the Department of Education to the school of common sense for some re-education on this subject.



    1. An official statement of the APA regarding the DSM can be found at this link.

    Reprinted with permission from the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

  • About the author: David Fowler

    David Fowler served in the Tennessee Senate for 12 years. In 2006, he cofounded the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee, where he continues to serve as president.