By Kathryn Joyce
On the Monday before Christmas break at an elementary school in Pearland, Texas, just south of Houston, a five-year-old girl named Kai went with the rest of her kindergarten classmates to the library. Physically slight but hugely affectionate with silky blond hair, Kai loved her teacher, her classmates, and her school.
Yet a short time later, Kai’s family claims, she was crying and standing over a puddle on the hallway floor. Accidents aren’t uncommon for kindergarteners, of course. But when Kai’s mother, Kimberly Shappley, picked her up that day, Kai was wearing different clothes than what she’d gone to school in, her original outfit was wet and balled up in her backpack, and she was distraught.
“That day she made a big deal of it, because in her mind and her heart, it was a different feeling, and she knew it was different,” said Kimberly.
Kai assured her this accident wasn’t because she’d gotten distracted playing or waited until the last minute. It was because Kai is transgender, and adults at her school took too long to figure out what bathroom she should use.
Kai’s own classroom, like all kindergarten classrooms at her school, has a single-occupancy, unisex bathroom for everyone to use. But when Kai goes to the cafeteria, library or gym, she isn’t allowed to use the regular girls’ restrooms, thanks to a confusing workaround the school district came up with last spring.
When Kimberly first approached the Pearland Independent School District last year, saying her child would be starting school in the fall and she hoped they might find a private way to accommodate her, school officials initially seemed amenable. But days after that conversation, Kimberly said, the superintendent, John Kelly, lamented to the Houston Chronicle about the “social engineering” of Obama’s Departments of Education and Justice in mandating that public schools let trans students use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
The May 2016 directive, clarifying that gender identity was a protected category under Title IX— the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in public schools—was an assertion of dominance from a “hostile vocal minority,” Kelly said. “What’s next? Legalizing pedophilia and polygamy?”
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