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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

High School girls stage walkout to protest transgender student in their bathroom

In the middle of last school year, Lila Perry came out as transgender. Before that, she had been living as a gay male.

So this year, she told teachers and administrators at Hillsboro High School, where she is a senior, that she would no longer be content to use a unisex faculty bathroom. She wanted to be treated like other female students, including access to bathrooms and locker rooms for girls.

Her decision spread quickly through the small Jefferson County school district and, on Monday morning, students at Hillsboro High School walked out in protest. During the walkout, Lila was locked in the principal’s office. She said she and administrators worried about her safety.

Lila Perry, a senior and transgender student at Hillsboro High School, speaks with reporters as Blayke Childs of Farmington offers his opinion after a student walkout, over Perry's request to use the girls locker rooms. Both supporters and opponents of Perry's request turned out for the morning protest. "I have sisters and brothers that go to school," said Childs, 21. "I don't want this to grow like wildfire."

Lila Perry (second from left), a senior and transgender student at Hillsboro High School, speaks with friends Gianna Warfel (left), Skyla Thompson and Hayley Reeves following a student walkout , held in support and opposition to Perry's request to use the girls locker rooms.

“The girls have rights, and they shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with a boy,” said Tammy Sorden, who has a son at Hillsboro High. It is fine to be different, she said, but it is not right to give Lila special treatment “while the girls just have to suck it up.”

Students and parents interviewed after the walkout were overwhelmingly in support of keeping Lila, 17, out of the school facilities for girls.

But the school’s gay-straight alliance and other supporters held a counterprotest to show that not everyone is in agreement. Some students on both sides left after school administrators broke up the protest. Supporters of Lila said they did not feel comfortable going back into the school.

Opponents said leaving school was a continuation of showing their position.

Lila said she has dropped out of her physical education class because there is litt
le supervision and that makes her uncomfortable. And she rarely uses the bathroom now while at school. Still, Lila said, she should be able to use the facilities girls use.


“I wasn’t hurting anyone. I didn’t want to be in something gender-neutral,” she said, referring to the faculty bathroom administrators encouraged her to use. “I am a girl. I am not going to be pushed away to another bathroom.”


High school administrators referred a reporter to Superintendent Aaron D. Cornman. He would not comment about the issue, which has become the talk of the community since classes began in mid-August. He said he had to protect the privacy of students.

He did, however, hand a reporter a written statement. It said, in part, that the district “respects the rights of all students and appreciates the fact that the students we are educating are willing to stand on their belief system and to support their cause/beliefs through their expression of free speech.”

Students were allowed to protest through second- and third-hour classes and then were asked to return to class.

Cornman’s statement also says that the district accepts all students “no matter race, nationality/ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We will promote tolerance and acceptance of all students that attend our district while not tolerating bullying/harassing behaviors of any type in any form.”

Lila said the school administration has been very supportive and is working to make her feel welcome. They have allowed her to use the facilities used by girls and women.

Districts that refuse to allow students to use a bathroom for the gender with which they identify could run afoul of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, said Kelli Hopkins of the Missouri School Boards’ Association.

“The Office of Civil Rights has issued an opinion that says, if you do this, you have engaged in gender discrimination,” Hopkins said. “At the same time, there is no case law or statute in Missouri that says this is against the law.”

Schools found to have violated a student’s civil rights are at risk of losing some of their federal funding, Hopkins said.


Several people interviewed outside Hillsboro High on Monday argued that a student who still has male genitalia should not be allowed into a changing room with teenage girls.

“I’m not comfortable with it,” said Britney Heimos, a 2008 Hillsboro graduate who was at the school to pick up her brother. “There is nothing wrong with being different. But when you are different, there are sacrifices.”

Shortly after the protest, Jeff Childs, 47, and his son, Blayke, 21, both of Farmington, drove onto the high school parking lot with “Girls Rights Matter” painted on the sides and tailgate of the Ford pickup. When they were told by police to leave, they went to a Dollar General store, bought poster boards and markers and made signs that they held at the busy entrance to the high school.

“This needs to stop before it goes too far,” said Childs, who has a niece and a nephew who go to an elementary school in Hillsboro. “I’m not trying to be ignorant, but (the transgender student) is bringing it out in public for everybody else to deal with.”

Skyla Thompson, 16, refers to Lila as her best friend. She said Lila often stays at Skyla’s house overnight while Lila’s family tries to come to grips with their child identifying as transgender.

“She is such a good person. They are just judging her on the outside,” Skyla said of those who have been critical of Lila.

Lila wears a long brown wig, with bobby pins keeping the hair from her eyes. On Monday, her outfit included a short blue skirt and wedges.

“She is choosing her life to better herself, to better accept herself,” said friend Gianna Warfel, 16. “I don’t know what there is to discriminate about that. I really support the bravery she has.”

Hopkins, of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said she is having to explain to school boards with more frequency how the federal government views treatment of transgender students.

“I got no calls on this five years ago,” she said. “I’ve gotten at least half a dozen recently.”

From the war on terror to the war at home: FBI seeks smaller, faster biometric collection tools

In the latest example of surveillance technology trickling down from the foreign war space to the domestic United States, the FBI is seeking proposals for the creation of fast, mobile biometric tracking devices capable of collecting face recognition prints and fingerprint scans on the go, and comparing them to information held in federal databases.

On August 30, 2015, the FBI posted a request for proposals to the Federal Business Opportunities website. That request states, in part:

The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division’s Quick Capture Platform (QCP) is a state-of- the-art biometric system that enables investigators to collect and store fingerprint data during domestic and international investigations. The QCP enables instant access to federal fingerprint databases. This comprehensive access to the main United States (U.S.) Government biometric holdings enables QCP users to quickly establish whether a subject has possible terrorist links (in the U.S. or abroad) or is likely to pose a threat to the U.S.

The QCP originated in 2007, as an investigative tool for use by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team during operations conducted overseas. The purpose was to develop a platform capable of providing a rapid collection and response in hostile environments. Since the QCP’sinception, the FBI’s need for a tool that is capable of biometric collection, as well as providing rapid responses, has expanded from supporting overseas investigations to include increased domestic use.

Currently the FBI’s mobile biometric capture and identification platform is used to provide remote identification submission and response capabilities. The platform provides the capability to capture biometric and biographic information, package it in a transaction that conforms to the FBI’s Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS), and send it electronically to the CJIS systems for searching/matching/enrollment of biometric data.

The current QCP has a large footprint, typically stored in backpacks or Pelican cases and not optimized for mobile operations. Future platforms should be made smaller to increase mobility and ease of use. The platforms are not designed to fully utilize the current and future CJIS Information Technology infrastructure.

In short: the FBI wants a company to help it miniaturize its biometric collectiontechnology for domestic use. The technology the FBI seeks will work in concert with Android cell phones and tablets, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. The FBI specifies that it wants technology capable of booting in under a minute, and which can boot, take biometric measurements, and submit them to the FBI’s database in under five minutes.

This request for proposals is just the latest example of the federal government’s quiet expansion of biometric tracking. The 2015 omnibus budget, for example,includes $117 million for the purchase of rapid DNA testing machines for state and local law enforcement. The FBI runs the nation’s largest DNA database, CODIS. Therefore state and local police who obtain these machines will use them to send DNA samples to the FBI database for matching tests. Presumably, like with other biometrics, the FBI will keep those records, thereby exponentially expanding its DNA collection on people nationwide, many of whom will never be convicted of any crimes.

The FBI’s “Biometrics Center of Excellence” and “Next Generation Identification” system aim to harvest as much biometric information from as many people worldwide as possible. Technologies like the biometrics phone app the FBI seeks with this request will make ubiquitous collection possible, particularly when state and local law enforcement get their hands on the devices.

If history is any indication, it will only be a matter of time until the federal grants start flowing so local cops can get these toys, too. And while the FBI claims it needs this technology to identify terrorists, it's much more likely that this tool will ultimately become just one more weapon in the arsenal the government deploys to wage an immoral, discriminatory war on drugs against black and brown communities nationwide.

That is, unless we stop it.