School Board Allows Pepper Spray In School Suggesting Use Against Transgender Students

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

It was just a matter of time before bigoted North Carolinians concluded that since there are no “official genital police” or armed “toilet patrols” posted at school bathrooms, it was time to allow students to carry defensive weapons at school for bathroom protection. Weapons on school grounds is an insane idea, but in response to North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 it is a natural progression from just discriminating against transgender people, either real or imagined, to condoning using violence against them.

This development is likely why the Department of Justice reacted swiftly to the North Carolina HB2 law by first warning the Republicans the law violated several federal statutes, and then filing suit against religious North Carolina Republicans. The idea of the government suing to stop the law to prevent student on student violence in the public schools is something sane human beings likely never considered.

Unbelievably, the Associated Press reported that the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education debated and then removed prohibitive language and amended its policy on students carrying ‘defensive weapons’ in school. The board’s decision was that students should be allowed to carry what they denoted as “defensive weapons” such as mace, pepper spray and razors; especially in case they suspect a transgender student is using the wrong bathroom.

One board member suggested that students really need “these tools in light of HB2.” It is a tepid concession that there has never been a problem with toilet IDs until Republicans enacted a law targeting transgender people.

According to one school board member, Chuck Hughes,

Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in.” The potential for injury to students just using the bathroom obviously never entered into the decision-making process because transgenders.

Even though other school board members questioned the wisdom of changing these rules and allowing “female students to carry pretty valuable tools” like pepper spray and razors as weapons to use against other students, they acquiesced to the fear factor.

Some of the board members were at first skeptical that mace, pepper sprays and razors would only be used as a last resort for self-defense. In fact, the school board’s attorney, Ken Soo, took the time to explain to the board members that there are several cases on record of students using “defensive sprays” against their teachers. Mr. Soo didn’t mention the cases where students used “pepper sprays”  or razors against other students; likely because it wouldn’t have changed the board members’ minds.

Predictably, the school board members voted in favor of changing the policies because like HB2, arming students with razors and pepper spray is “a solution in a search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist.” If North Carolina thought they were in a legal battle over the unconstitutionality and violations of Civil Rights laws with the passage of HB2, wait until bigoted students begin “macing” other students they “believe or suspect” have genitals that may or may not comport with the gender on their birth certificates.

A rash of anti-LGBT bills are either being considered or have recently been passed through several state legislatures since the Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage. In fact, bills focusing on policing and restricting transgender people’s use of bathrooms are becoming particularly common; the new cause célèbre for the religious Republicans’ culture of hate.

States such as Kansas, Tennessee, Washington, South Dakota, Texas and South Carolina have all considered bills targeting and limiting transgender person’s rights in general, but particularly restricting their access to the toilet. Like in North Carolina, when there are no official police involved, it won’t be long before those other states begin allowing students to carry weapons to use against other students.

Apparently this non-issue is presenting itself in schools at an alarming rate because conservative lawmakers are so desperate to sate the religious anti-LGBT bigots they are justifying discriminatory laws with claims that they are trying to protect “the kids.” If that is the case, then arming students with pepper spray and razors eliminates the need for discriminatory laws like HB2.

This entire transgender toilet usage issue, like HB2, is nothing more than fear-mongering to justify discriminatory legislation targeting the LGBT community; and frightened evangelicals are reacting as expected. For example, in Illinois a group of over 50 families and “the religious Thomas More Societyfiled a lawsuit in federal court claiming that transgender students were an infringement on their children’s privacy and caused them trauma. On the West Coast in California, the hate-driven Westboro Baptist Church folks gathered and protested at a school in the Los Angeles Unified School District because it added a “gender-neutral” bathroom; apparently the LAUSD sought to proactively prevent the kind of bigotry issues, and possibly violence, that is running rampant in North Carolina and several other states.

As noted by Casey Quinlan at Think Progress, these bathroom laws primarily target transgender women. Conservatives claim “trans women pretend to be trans to sexually abuse ‘cisgender women’ but don’t seem concerned that cisgender men may be sexual predators posing as protesters concerned about cisgender women’s safety.” There are many groups sending men into women’s bathrooms to “police” the users with no regard for the privacy of women.

The Washington Post reported that police charged one such “bathroom patrol” protester someone said was a “shooter” at a Target store with “provoking a breach of the peace causing panic among store employees and customers.” All over fear of who is using a bathroom and the pressing need to intervene; at least the man was not armed with pepper spray and a razor.

It is hard to imagine any school board ever considering allowing students to arm themselves for anything, much less bathroom visits. But it is not surprising that the weapons are considered “defensive” as a protection against a manufactured threat which is all this fright-fest over transgender people really is.

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