High school moves forward with groundbreaking changes for transgender students

CHERRY HILL, NJ (WTXF) - Middle and high school are hard enough. There's a constant battle for acceptance and understanding from peers, friends and teachers. It's even tougher for the growing number of transgender teens.

A South Jersey School District is about ready to move forward with groundbreaking changes to help its transgender students, but as FOX 29's Bill Anderson explains doing what may seem like the right thing is not easy on anyone.

Discussions surrounding LGBT communities and particularly transgender experiences are at an all-time high.

Whether it's the high profile transition of Caitlyn Jenner or the views of well-known politicians, how to define fair treatment of transgender people is a major topic of discussion.

Locally in Cherry Hill, a pending school board policy is the latest attempt to address how transgender people should be treated in public facilities.

"Basically, what the policy states is that transgender students. That is students who identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, have the right to choose what restroom they choose. If I was a transgender student and I was born a male and I identify as a female, I have the right to use the female locker room and the female bathroom," Superintendent Meloche told FOX 29.

The process of transgender students changing how they are identified in schools requires parental involvement. The policy is in line with New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws and is similar to policies in other states. Even so, Superintendent Meloche explained why a policy like this was necessary now.

"There are children that identify as transgender and we want to make sure we protect every student and all of the children that come to us here in the district.," Meloche said.

Although the Superintendent emphasized that the policy was to protect all students and pointed out that there was very little opposition to the policy in Cherry Hill, There is some general opposition. The Pennsylvania Pastors Network says simply this is wrong.

"God made male and female. We get into trouble when we move away from that recognition and choose to say male is not male and female is not female under certain circumstances, under certain times, under certain days," said President of the American Pastors Network Sam Rohrer.

Even with minimal parental opposition in Cherry Hill, Parents from the surrounding area were far from united in support of the policy and some had some pretty serious concerns.

Debating theory is one thing but a local trans woman currently in college shared her firsthand experience with me. Robin"said that people who oppose these policies just don't understand the challenges that people transitioning face on a daily basis.

"If I was compelled to use a men's room now and people saw what I look like, I'd be extremely out of place and effectively I'd be outed as transgender anywhere that I went. That could lead to risks of violence," Robin told FOX 29.

Robin is clearly aware of the concerns of the opposition but told me that people who think her and other transgender individuals have negative intentions are not only missing the mark but are ignoring evidence.

" Everybody needs to use the bathroom and transgender people are just trying to use the bathroom where they feel safer. They're not putting anyone at risk and there's no evidence that they're doing that so these bills are necessary," Robin explained.

Cherry Hill's policy awaits final approval while surrounding districts are considering similar policies. Meanwhile, in a completely opposite view several cities are currently considering policies that ban transgender people from using any bathroom other than the sex they were born so this discussion is far from over.