Ray Carter | December 8, 2022
After assault, Edmond transgender bathroom policy questioned
An Edmond police report indicates an Oct. 26 assault in the girls’ bathroom at Memorial High School involved at least one male student who identified as a female.
If Edmond school officials knowingly allowed males to use the girls’ bathroom (and vice versa) based on self-proclaimed gender identity, the school could face the loss of 5 percent of its state funding and be subject to lawsuits by parents under a new law.
An Edmond Police report shows that on Oct. 26 at 8:14 a.m., an officer was called to Memorial High School in reference to a fight. Upon arrival, the officer found a student with injuries in the nurse’s office.
Witness statements included in the report suggest one of the students involved in the reported assault in the girls’ bathroom was a male who identified as a female.
Although the names of minors are redacted from the report, it quotes a student witness stating that one of the students involved in the assault “is a man,” while other student witnesses informed the officer “that they speculated that [name redacted] was a [redacted] but did not know for sure.”
The report shows the officer asked the school’s registrar secretary for the birth certificate of one of the students, “but the certificate of birth did not identify [name redacted] gender.” A separate document, a paternity affidavit, indicated the student’s gender, but the report states that the officer asked Principal Brandi Wheeler about a “discrepancy” in the student records and was informed that the student “was born [redacted] but identifies as a [redacted].”
Michael Grande, who ran for a position on the Edmond School Board last year, said the district has reportedly long allowed students to use bathrooms based on self-proclaimed gender identity rather than biology.
“During that time, just going out on the campaign trail, a lot of parents that we talked to had concerns about transgender boys being in the girls’ bathrooms, all the way down at the middle-school level even, at Edmond,” Grande said. “So a friend of mine sent in some emails, just asking what the policy was.”
Grande said a member of the Edmond School Board responded that the school had allowed males to use girls’ bathrooms (and vice versa) based on gender identity and had done so for roughly a decade.
Under Senate Bill 615, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor this year, all public schools “shall require every multiple occupancy restroom or changing area” to be designated for the “exclusive use of the male sex” or “exclusive use of the female sex” with access based on the sex listed on a child’s birth certificate. (School districts already maintain copies of students’ birth certificates.)
Should an individual not wish to use the bathroom designated for his or her sex, the legislation requires that public schools “shall provide a reasonable accommodation” by granting those individuals “access to a single-occupancy restroom or changing room.”
Susan Parks-Schlepp, director of communications for Edmond Public Schools, said the district has adopted a policy that “states that all individuals are expected to comply with Oklahoma law (SB 615) regarding school bathrooms or changing facilities.”
Edmond’s policy states that students and staff who refuse to comply with the bathroom law may be subject to disciplinary action.
SB 615, which took effect on May 25, includes a significant financial sanction for schools that violate the law.
Under the law, schools found to be noncompliant “shall receive a five percent (5%) decrease in state funding for the school district or public charter school for the fiscal year following the year of noncompliance.”
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the Edmond school district received $53.6 million in state funding in 2021.
According to an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs data tool, which includes state-reported financial data for all school districts, the Edmond school district has received between $50 million and $58 million in annual state funding in recent years.
Parents could also sue Edmond schools if officials failed to follow state law on bathroom access. Under SB 615, “A parent or legal guardian of a student enrolled in and physically attending a public school district or public charter school shall have a cause of action against the public school district or public charter school for noncompliance” with the provisions of the bathroom law.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.