North Carolina just can’t seem to stay out of the news lately, and it’s all because of the state’s new “bathroom bill,” which was designed to keep transgender individuals from using the school or other public bathroom they identify with. Known officially as HB2, North Carolina’s bathroom bill has been called “anti-LGBT legislation” by many, the source of almost unending media coverage since it was passed in late March and even the catalyst for extensive boycotting of the state.
Last week, the federal government got into the mix, with the Justice Department telling North Carolina in a letter that the anti-LGBT bathroom bill violates the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination against employees based on their gender. This is because, in addition to forcing transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificate, North Carolina’s HB2 also takes away legal protections from the LGBT community in the state and prevents North Carolina cities and towns from passing their own legislation that would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.
North Carolina was given until May 9 to respond to the federal government’s letter and to cease enforcement of HB2 or face legal consequences.
On May 9, North Carolina legislators responded to the Justice Department, but not in the manner the federal government was hoping. Rather than heed the federal edict, North Carolina responded with a lawsuit against the federal government, according to ABC News. The lawsuit, filed by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and secretary of the Department of Public Safety Frank Perry, accused the Department of Justice of “radical reinterpretation” of the Title VII Civil Rights Act and “a baseless and blatant overreach” of federal authority.
“This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the Courts.”
The plaintiffs argued publicly and in their lawsuit that transgender is not a federally protected status, and the North Carolina governor said that the suit was filed both to “gain clarity” on the situation as well as in protests of the three business day response time allocated by the Department of Justice.
In the midst of the HB2 legal confusion, a North Carolina school board made a startling announcement. Due to the confusion regarding the bathroom bill and out of “concern” for the safety of students who might have to fend off “bathroom intruders,” i.e., transgender bathroom users, Groopspeak News reports that high school students will be allowed to carry pepper spray on campus to “protect themselves.”
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education made the announcement on May 10, the day after North Carolina announced it was responding to Department of Justice pressure to abandon the bathroom bill with a lawsuit of its own. Chuck Hughes, who sits on the Board, said that pepper spray may be a “pretty valuable tool” for female students using the bathroom in North Carolina high schools. Travis Allen, a fellow Board member defended the shocking decision.
“Having been pepper sprayed numerous times and being a school resource officer, the baseball bats that your baseball team brings every day to school is a bigger weapon than a canister of pepper spray, that’s my thinking on it. A chair from the cafeteria is a bigger weapon than a can of pepper spray.”
Not surprisingly, response to the new North Carolina high school “pepper spray issue” has been heated, with some saying that it is “almost encouraging violence” against transgender students.
— T Pettinger (@tamitao2) May 11, 2016
@Slate Hey why not let them carry guns to shoot anyone not like them. Just a sick state.
— Greg Provchy (@gregprovchy) May 12, 2016
Particularly, the law about where they can and can’t use the bathroom is so ambiguous at this point. North Carolina says that they can only use the school bathroom that matches their birth certificate. The federal government believes that the bathroom bill is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or sex.” According to the current administration, that includes gender identity.
So what we could see, as a result of students being allowed to carry and presumably use pepper spray at school, are transgender high school students being targeted for violence simply for being in the bathroom.
What do you think? It the North Carolina School Board right to allow students to carry pepper spray on campus and into the bathroom? Do laws like this allow students to protect themselves from violence or do they encourage more violence? Will North Carolina win this school bathroom battle, or is it a lost cause?
[Image via Shutterstock]