UPDATED: North Pole High Student Discipline
***This statement was updated at 4:35pm on Monday, April 15 with additional information.***
To parents and community members:
As you may know, the school district has been in the news recently regarding male students attempting to enter the girls’ bathroom at North Pole High and a female student who was involved. We cannot release all details related to this event - student disciplinary actions are confidential as a matter of law and district policy. However, the following is what we can share.
The series of events at North Pole High School began when a student transitioning from female to male took a selfie in the boys’ restroom on Monday, April 1, and posted on Snapchat.
Some male students at the school were upset about the public nature of the post and restroom use. There was, and continues to be, conversation among students regarding transgender students at NPHS and the use of restrooms. Teachers, counselors, support staff and administrators are helping students navigate that dialogue. The district provides additional counselors to schools whenever it is determined assistance is needed.
A group of male students decided to go into a girls’ restroom to take a Snapchat of their own, similar to what the transgender student did, as a form of protest.
On April 4, a group of male students began to enter the restroom. Only one male student actually proceeded past the door frame. The other male students followed behind him and were not yet in the restroom. A female student (not the transgender student) was exiting the restroom at the time the first male student began to enter. The female student kicked the first male student in the groin. The male students turned around and left the area.
An investigation conducted by the district’s Title IX investigator began on April 4 and continued through April 8, in which numerous statements and relevant evidence were collected. Based on the results of the investigation, school administration issued discipline on April 8 to both the female student and to seven male students involved in the incident. The male students were disciplined for attempting to enter the restroom. There was not evidence that the male students were threatening any student or using any type of force toward other students.
The North Pole High School prom was held on April 6, and none of the students involved in the incident on April 4 were told they could not attend prom. The investigation was still in process at that point; student discipline was issued on April 8.
The district does not encourage students or staff to use force against students, staff or visitors to school facilities. In general, we recommend students talk to school staff about any situations in which they feel unsafe. Students are encouraged to bring concerns about their safety to school staff. If a student is facing an imminent threat, the student’s response to the threat will be evaluated based on the facts and circumstances of the incident, district policies, and state law.
In regards to transgender students, when a student identifies as transgender in our district, the student (and often the family) work with school counselors and administration to determine how to best meet that student’s educational needs. The conversation includes use of restrooms.
Some students choose to use “gender neutral” restrooms. These are typically restrooms in or near the main office or the nurse’s office, or single-person restrooms at various locations around the school that have been identified for student use. Some continue to use the restroom of their birth gender. Other transgender students use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Each situation is addressed individually.
Students are not permitted to determine which restroom facility is appropriate for other students. Students who use or attempt to use a restroom facility that a school administrator has determined is not appropriate for the student, could be subject to student discipline.
Ensuring a safe environment is a core value in our school district. This includes the social-emotional safety of our students, as well as the physical safety. We do not advocate physical or psychological violence as a means to attain safety. The entire school community needs to work together to ensure that all students feel welcomed, safe and are able to learn and thrive. We recognize that parents, students and members of our community feel strongly about these issues, but advocating for the use of violence does not contribute to a safe learning environment. If a student uses force against another student or against staff, that use of force is evaluated for potential discipline under the self-defense laws of the State and the facts and circumstances of the incident.
It is critical that the district maintain confidentiality regarding student discipline. While I will not discuss the discipline related to this incident, I can tell you that students have due process rights and can appeal school-level decisions. We are working through those procedures right now.
-Dr. Karen Gaborik, Superintendent