A controversial transgender bathroom policy at an elementary school in Georgia is now under federal investigation after a young child is reported to have been sexually assaulted.
Last Wednesday, the Education Department confirmed it is investigating whether a Georgia school district’s policy of allowing students to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of biological sex, contributed to a “hostile environment” for a 5-year-old girl who reported being sexually assaulted in the school bathroom.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed the complaint on behalf of the victim’s parents.
Under the Obama administration, policy was enacted that mandated that transgender students be permitted to choose which bathroom or locker room facility to use. But President Donald Trump reversed that policy, declaring such decisions would be left up to individual schools and states, instead.
The assault now in question occurred at Oakhurst Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, in November 2017--just one year after the school implemented the bathroom policy for transgender students. According to the girl’s mother, Pascha Thomas, the sexual assault was perpetrated by a male identifying as “gender fluid”.
Thomas shared the painful details of her daughter’s story in a video produced by ADF.
"My daughter stated to me that she was in class, and she asked the teacher if she could go to the bathroom. And the teacher said yes," Thomas explained.
"So she was in the bathroom and she was pulling up her pants, when one of her classmates came into her bathroom, a little boy. She tried to leave the bathroom, [but] the little boy pushed her against the bathroom stall. Basically pinned her up against there...She asked him to stop...He refused," the mother continued.
"Once he was done, she went to class. I asked her if she told anyone about it. She started crying and said 'No mama, I didn't tell nobody, but I didn't ask him to come in the bathroom with me. I didn't know he was going to do that.'"
According to Alliance Defending Freedom, the elementary school first implemented the transgender policy in 2016. It would allow students who identify as the opposite sex to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that correspond to their chosen gender identity, versus their biological sex. This would therefore enable boys to enter girls’ facilities.
At the time, district superintendent David Dude described the policy to staff as "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. ..."
Parents were allegedly not informed of the policy change, although many claim to have voiced concerns upon finding out. Those concerns, they say, were largely ignored by school officials.
Thomas further claims that the school initially attempted to blame her for the sexual assault, and says that the Department of Family and Child Services was contacted to investigate her and her family.
She has also stated that the school has not only continued to ignore the situation, but also directly told her that the policy would not be reversed.
In September, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it would be investigating ADF’s complaint, filed against City Schools of Decatur.
"This situation was both deeply tragic and avoidable," said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb.
"Schools have a duty to protect the privacy and safety of all students and Decatur Schools clearly failed this young girl. The current approach that many schools are taking of passing these transgender bathroom policies isn't working; they fail to provide basic privacy or ensure the safety of all students."
A spokeswoman for the school district, however, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the “district is aware of the unfounded allegations”, and that “we disagree with their characterization of the situation.”
But Pascha Thomas sees it differently.
"What happened to her, I felt devastated, I felt angry. I felt betrayed," Thomas said in the video.
"When I dropped my child off at school, I never would think that she would be sexually assaulted in a bathroom by a little boy."