In November of 2017, Pascha Thomas’ five-year-old daughter “N.T.” told her she had been sexually assaulted in the girls’ restroom at Oakhurst Elementary School in Decatur, GA.
While N.T. was in the restroom, her teacher dismissed another child—a boy who has been identified to the school as “gender fluid”—to use the restroom per Decatur City Schools’ transgender restroom policy. Tragically, the boy sexually assaulted N.T. while in the girls’ restroom.
Ms. Thomas reported the assault to school authorities, but the school refused to correct the situation or take steps to prevent future incidents: The school refused to change its policy. The school refused to remove the boy from N.T.’s classroom. The school refused to assure Ms. Thomas that the girls’ restroom would be reserved in the future for girls’ use only. She had to remove her daughter from the school to protect N.T.’s emotional and physical wellbeing.
In May, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a complaint along with a local family attorney to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and on September 14th, the OCR announced that they would investigate the complaint.
According to the complaint filed on May 22, Superintendent David 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….”
Following the adoption of the policy, the complaint notes, “Superintendent Dude and the Board were repeatedly warned through written statements and public comment that the Policy would unacceptably inflict the loss of privacy and loss of safe private spaces for girls.”
The school district made no changes to the policy and, in November 2017, a boy was permitted—because of the policy—to enter the girls’ restroom, where he assaulted the girl, known by the initials “N.T.”
“This situation was both deeply tragic and avoidable,” ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said. “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.”
OCR enforces Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal assistance. The agency is investigating whether the school district failed to provide a prompt response to a report that N.T. was sexually assaulted, whether the implementation of this policy contributed to creating a hostile environment for the student and other girls in noncompliance with Title IX, and whether the district retaliated against the student’s parent for reporting the sexual harassment.
“A school’s top priority is to protect the safety and bodily privacy of its students, period,” said Vernadette Broyles, an attorney with the Georgia Adoption & Family Law Practice, who co-filed the complaint with ADF. “Decatur School’s policies have created a stressful, unfair, and, as in this case, even unsafe environment—particularly for girls. We are grateful that OCR is investigating this tragedy, and we hope the agency helps this school district and others adopt commonsense solutions that protect the privacy and safety of all students.”
Read the complaint sent to OCR:
Read the OCR’s response: