BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One letter from the federal Department of Education set off a national debate, including in the Baton Rouge capital area. It's over whether transgender students at public high schools and colleges should get access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on their sex.
"I don't think it should be determined by their birth certificate. It should be by how they dress and how they identify themselves now," said Mary-Ethel Theriot.
"If it happens, I will pull my children out of public schools and home school them," said Jessica Johnson, who has four children.
There has been split reaction among many people when it comes to whether bathroom and locker room access for transgender students.
The letter went to some 17,000 public school systems across the country basically saying they need to provide equal bathroom and locker room access for transgender students, based on which sex they identify with, not based on the sex put on their birth certificates.
"If you identify yourself and wear a dress and identify yourself as a female, you should be able to go into the ladies room," said Theriot.
But Johnson said no matter what, it should be based on the sex you're born with because she said it could be misused.
"I believe it will give pedophiles more of a leeway to do what they want to do and get away with it," said Johnson.
The letter does not have the force of law. However, the federal government is telling the thousands of public high schools and colleges they need to provide transgender friendly facilities or they could face lawsuits or lose their federal funding.
"That's very discriminating for them to try to take federal funding away from the schools based on what the restrooms look like," said Theriot.
"We need to push it on them to pay for the home schools or private schools. I won't have mine in public. It's ridiculous," said Johnson.
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, that means over a billion dollars with Louisiana receiving $1.1 billion for the current fiscal year from the federal government.
"The United States Department of Education has sent a letter to all school systems interpreting pre-existing federal law to require schools to gr ant specific rights to children based on the gender identity listed by their parents. Louisiana's children deserve to be treated fairly, no matter their race, sex or gender identity. The Louisiana Department of Education's legal staff is reviewing the United States Department of Education's letter and will provide assistance to Louisiana's school districts in addressing the needs of their students," said DOE's media information director Ken Pastorick.
"The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is in receipt of the Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students issued jointly by the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education. We are in the process of reviewing the document, and considering any and all obligations imposed upon us. We remain committed to providing a safe, caring, and nondiscriminatory learning environment for all students and will continue to evaluate, develop, and revise our policies and practices as necessary to address student needs," said Adonica Duggan with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
The Governor's Office released a statement Friday afternoon saying, "The governor is continuing to review the guidance from the US Department of Justice and Department of Education. It appears that this guidance is simply clarifying current law under Title IX. The governor is working closely with the Louisiana Department to meet our shared goal of fostering a safe, non-discriminatory environment for our children."