Local school leaders, legislators weigh in on Obama administration transgender bathroom guidelines


CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL)-  School administrators in the Tri-Cities are reviewing guidelines from the White House addressing the issue of transgender students in bathrooms.

On Friday, the Obama administration urged schools to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

On Monday Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam responded saying he doesn’t think the issue should be decided by the federal or state government, but instead by local school leaders.

We reached out to several school systems in our region, most of which say they haven’t even had an opportunity to discuss the message among staff yet.

On Monday evening we met up with Carter County Director of Schools Kevin Ward.

“It does cause a lot of concern for me as superintendent,” Ward said.

Ward said he still has some unanswered questions after the directive released on Friday from the Obama administration.

“Is it the law of the land? You know is this just a directive? Is it constitutional for this directive to be passed on to all superintendents in all states?,” Ward said.

Representative Bud Hulsey of Kingsport weighed in too.

“They have no business sticking their nose all the way down to a small school, to a small town, in this state,” Hulsey said.

You may remember Hulsey brought what became known as the “bathroom bill” to the legislature in Nashville just a few months ago.

Despite his failed attempt to pass a bill where students would have to use the bathroom and locker room based on their birth certificate, Hulsey said he thinks there are better solutions than what the federal government is suggesting.

“It would just be wonderful if we could go back to local folks, local school boards dictating what is going to go on in their school,” Hulsey said.

Ward said the next step is to seek legal advice on what this will mean for Carter County schools.

“We are going to reserve any comment as far as what we are going to do until we know what we are legally bound to do,” Ward said.

The Johnson City school district told us they haven’t had a chance to look at the guidelines just yet.

Elizabethton school leaders told us administrators will keep working with state and local officials to make the most appropriate decisions.

Kingsport City Schools told us their top priority is student safety.Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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