In July 2016, City Schools of Decatur Superintendent David Dude issued a new transgender bathroom policy, without notifying parents. Parents complained, but the policy was never changed. Then, in November 2017, a 5-year-old boy sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in a girls’ bathroom. When her mother reported the incident, the school refused to reconsider the policy. Instead, they blamed her and reported her to the Department of Family and Children’s Services.
“How do you, in your right mind, do something like that to a parent?” Pascha Thomas, the girl’s mother, asked in a heart-wrenching video about the case. “Their child has been sexually assaulted, then you turn around and paint them out as the villain, just to sweep it up under the rug, because it all goes back to a policy you have in place.”
“Not only did they ignore the child’s report of her sexual assault, but reported the family to child services,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told PJ Media on Wednesday. “The child’s report of sexual assault was contrary to their narrative on this transgender restroom policy, and therefore they retaliated against this poor family and this poor five-year-old girl.”
Alliance Defending Freedom joined Pascha Thomas’s lawyer, Vernadette Boyles — herself an attorney allied with ADF — in filing a complaint to the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), alleging a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. Last month, the OCR agreed to investigate the case.
According to the complaint filed on May 22, Dude announced to staff “a policy that required all Decatur Schools to admit boys who identify as female into girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and shower areas on school premises … based solely on the stated preference of the individual student.”
In the video, Vernadette Boyles explained that the concerned parents of Decatur “met with the superintendent, they wrote several letters to him, they emailed him.” Each time they expressed their concerns about the safety and privacy of their daughters, “they got the same consistent response: We hear you, we understand, but in essence we’re doing nothing to change this policy.”
Boyles recalled a school board meeting in October 2016, when the transgender bathroom policy was discussed. A former chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles testified. “Given his understanding of human nature, he specifically testified to his concern that this policy would be used by young boys to gain access to girls in private settings for mischievous purposes,” the lawyer said. “And it was as if he was prophetic, because that is precisely what has happened.”
Then Pascha Thomas told the heart-wrenching story of her daughter’s assault. The boy who entered the restroom wasn’t even fully transgender, he identified as “gender non-conforming.”
“She went to the bathroom and she was pulling up her pants when one of her classmates came in the bathroom, a little boy. She tried to leave out of the bathroom, the little boy pushed her against the bathroom stall, basically pinned her up against there,” Thomas said, summarizing her daughter’s story. “She asked him to stop, he wouldn’t.”
“He took his fingers and he was penetrating her through her pants and she asked him to stop and stated several times that it hurt. He refused,” the mother recalled, holding back tears of rage.
“Once he was done, she went to class. I asked her if she told anyone about it,” Thomas added. “She started crying, saying, ‘No momma, I didn’t tell nobody, but I didn’t ask him to come in the bathroom with me. I didn’t know he was gonna do that.'”
The terrified mother “told her that it’s not her fault. It’s just not her fault. He should not have been in the bathroom.”
This happened right before Thanksgiving break. When school resumed after the break, Pascha Thomas tried calling the school “for days and days, and did not receive a return call.” The principal and school officials agreed to meet with her more than two weeks after the assault, but they refused to reconsider the transgender bathroom policy.
“I told the principle that I was demanding that the little boy be taken out of the classroom,” the mother said. “She refused.”
“‘Can you assure me that he will no longer be allowed to go into the girls’ bathroom?’ She said, ‘No, I can’t assure you of anything and I’m not going to assure you of that,” Pascha Tomas recalled.
“I said, ‘So you meant to tell me that my child has to come here everyday and feel unsafe because you are refusing to do anything about what’s going on here?'”
On the day after Christmas, Pascha Thomas heard a knock at the door — it was the Department of Family and Children’s Services. At first, she was hopeful someone would take her complaints seriously. Then she found out “they were there because the school said that I was responsible for the assault.”
Child services “was there to investigate me and my home and my children’s living arrangements.”
According to Vernadette Boyles, the school “reported to DFCS that there had been an incident in the school bathroom, but they named Miss Thomas as the responsible party.”
The school ultimately issued a statement to the public denying that the incident happened.
“When you have a policy that is now infringing on the privacy of girls and woman in schools and opening us up to violations of our privacy and of our safety, we run the high risk of creating a hostile environment for girls and for women in our educational environments,” Boyles argued.
“We’re extremely grateful that the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights agreed to investigate this,” Holcomb told PJ Media. “The family was not able to get any sort of justice. It’s unfortunate that we had to wait for the federal government to step in to investigate, but we are grateful that they have done so.”
We’re talking about the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl that was made possible because the school failed in its duty to protect her privacy and her safety,” Holcomb lamented. “One sexual assault of a child is one too many.”
The ADF lawyer argued that this case is particularly resonant in the wake of the #MeToo era focused on reporting sexual assault. “I think it’s all the more tragic that in the wake of the #MeToo movement, talking about ‘Let’s hear survivors,’ ‘Let’s trust women,’ we have a 5-year-old that reported her sexual assault and the school refused to even investigate.”
“That’s appalling,” Holcomb declared.
She argued that this story proves that “transgender restroom policies are not working. They need to be fixed.” She called it “absurd” that “a child should ever be forced to enter an intimate setting like a shower or a locker room with someone of the opposite sex.”
“The situation is tragic and it’s also very avoidable,” Holcomb told PJ Media. “It was made possible by this transgender restroom policy and we need to work to ensure that nothing like this happens again.” ADF “would be more than happy” to help schools craft policies to respect transgender students and protect the safety and privacy of all students, she added.
No amount of social justice activism can justify the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl, or the indignity that the school put her mother through. This story should be a call to action across the country. Please share this important story, and watch the video below.
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