The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into whether a trans-affirming policy facilitated a sexual assault in a Georgia elementary school. But contrary to national media reports, there was no transgender student involved in the reported incident.
The Department of Education confirmed to INTO that they are investigating whether an Oakhurst Elementary student was assaulted in a bathroom, because the City Schools of Decatur allows transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
“We do not comment on pending investigations — but to be clear, the investigation focuses on the school’s response to a report of sexual assault and the examination of any and all factors that may have contributed to a hostile environment,” an Education Department spokesman wrote in an email to INTO.
The investigation stems from a complaint filed by anti-LGBTQ hate group the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which alleges that a gender fluid five-year-old followed a girl the same age into the bathroom last November.
“As [Victim] was emerging from a stall, the Assailant pushed her against a wall, pushed his hand between her legs, and repeatedly felt and poked at her genitals, [REDACTED], while she struggled and called out for him to stop,” the complaint reads. “No one came to help.”
ADF claims that the district’s transgender policy “created a hostile environment for girls by eliminating their expectation of privacy from the opposite sex.”
Still, the department’s move is sure to send shockwaves through the transgender community, whose members disproportionately face harassment in public restrooms and are demonized as predators by anti-trans activists.
Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that every sexual assault allegation deserves to be taken seriously.
“We are deeply concerned … that the Department of Education will inject politics and ideology into its investigation of the school’s handling of this incident,” Branstetter said. “We know that policies affirming the rights of transgender students do not increase the safety risks for any child.”
On Thursday, a source with intimate knowledge of the district investigation told INTO that the alleged assailant was a male, not transgender or gender fluid. Decatur Police Department Lieutenant Jennifer Ross also identified him as male.
“Staff advised a parent reported that on November 16, 2017, her 5-year-old daughter disclosed that a male classmate, who is also five-years-old, made non-consensual sexual contact with her while inside of the girl’s restroom on November 10, 2017,” Ross said in an email. “Due to the suspect’s age, there will be no criminal prosecution regarding the incident.”
Local outlet Decaturish also reported that district officials had confirmed that the student was not transgender or gender fluid.
Courtney Burnett, a spokesperson for the district, said in a statement that ADF allegations are “unfounded.”
“We fully disagree with their characterization of the situation and are addressing it with the Office of Civil Rights,” Burnett said. “As this is a pending legal matter, we have no further comment at this time.”
Branstetter said it was notable that the Department was announcing the investigation to ostensibly support an assault survivor at a time when the administration is moving to bolster the rights of those accused of assault at colleges and universities by reducing the responsibility of schools in investigating complaints.
Last year, the Department of Education rolled back Obama-era rules protecting trans students in public school bathrooms.
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