bathroom
Arizona’s Top Charter Schools Allowing Boys Into Girls’ Bathrooms, Parents Not Notified

September 8, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

One of Arizona’s top charter school chains, Legacy Traditional Schools (LTS), began allowing boys into girls’ bathrooms this semester under its new “Title IX Gender Identity Policy” — and didn’t notify parents. 

AZ Free News spoke to some of the families impacted: several said they’ve pulled their children out of safety concerns, while others are seeking accommodations. Despite the ongoing controversy over their updated policy to accommodate gender identity, LTS canceled its August 25 board meeting. They claimed that there was “no new business requiring board attention.”

Vertex Education, the education management company behind LTS, discussed and shared their updated Title IX policy with AZ Free News. It appears from what Vertex Education spokesman Sean Amir shared that LTS made the policy change to align with anticipated changes to Title IX under the Biden administration. Amir added that LTS didn’t include their new Title IX Gender Identity Policy in their parent handbook because it was part of their internal documents.

“As a public charter school, Legacy must abide by all state and federal laws. Likewise, it does not discriminate against any student. Our notice of non-discrimination in the Parent/Student Handbook (page 38) is available on our website, and provides the federal statement as mandated by law,” wrote Amir. “The school’s internal documents describe how to carry out what Title IX sets forth, and are made available upon request.”

Vertex Education didn’t answer our questions about the lack of notification to parents about the policy update, nor did they answer as to whether community backlash prompted LTS to cancel its last board meeting. 

The company also didn’t answer whether their leadership discussed the high school sexual assault that made international headlines last fall and moved deep-blue Virginia to vote for a Republican governor for the first time in nearly a decade. In that case, a high school boy wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a freshman girl in the girls’ bathroom.

One LTS mother, Jennifer Leslie, shared with AZ Free News that they learned about LTS’ gender identity policy the week of August 2, when school started. Another parent’s child reportedly came home saying that a middle-school boy attended school dressed up as a girl and wearing a wig, and that he was uncomfortable with what he saw.

“They normally blast out so many emails about changes. Not once was this mentioned,” said Leslie. “It’s just disheartening. I don’t have a better way to explain it. I just wish there was more transparency. They could’ve handled this so much better.”

According to Leslie, LTS claimed that the gender identity policy has been in place since 2015. The Google Doc version of the policy we reviewed, supplied by Vertex Education, was created July 28. The company’s spokesman also didn’t mention the age of the policy. Leslie also shared that many LTS staff were unaware of the policy’s existence.

In addition to allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the opposite sex, the LTS gender identity policy directs parents to coordinate a gender transition plan with their school principal and administrators. 

As part of this plan, students may adhere to the opposite sex’s dress code, staff must use the student’s preferred names and pronouns, students may participate in sports designated for the opposite sex (unless prohibited by the Canyon Athletic Association), and staff may communicate a student’s gender transition to other students. However, LTS won’t voluntarily disclose to families whether any of their children’s peers are transitioning genders.

Leslie noted that she pulled her two children from LTS due to the policy and the administration’s subsequent unwillingness to accommodate them. Leslie described the ordeal as overwhelming.

“They were not very receptive at all. We first asked for our girls to use a single user restroom. We asked if they could use a health restroom. They said no, that is for children with special needs or kids who have a 504 plan,” shared Leslie. “The only option was, the girls had to use the bathroom with the other individual who is transitioning into a girl and allow him into that same bathroom. All kids deserve safety. The concern is boys being in the girls’ bathroom.”

Leslie said that her children miss their friends, having attended LTS since kindergarten, but that the change was for the best. While her eldest was admitted into another school, the youngest is on a waitlist and attending an online program.

“It’s disheartening and disappointing,” said Leslie. “It’s not even the teachers [who are to blame], it’s not even the administration. It’s the managing company of Legacy Traditional Schools, which is Vertex Education.”

Another mother, Diana Fitzgerald, shared that she also learned about the policy change from another parent and not LTS. Fitzgerald’s child attends a different campus from where the incident occurred.

Fitzgerald said the new policy alarmed her, prompting her to request an accommodation for a single-stall restroom. Since parents may never be informed about the presence of a transgender student on campus, Fitzgerald secured a precaution for her daughter. She said the whole ordeal was a disheartening travesty. 

“I’m concerned about the gender identity issue. It does create a head-on collision with parental rights. I’m grateful I was made aware of this,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s all any parent wants is transparency so they can feel safe that their children are in a healthy learning environment.”

Another longtime LTS mother, Jacqueline Parker, said that she also pulled her three children from their schools over the policy. She said that the concerns posed by her and others over the new policy were largely dismissed by LTS, which she said was “extremely frustrating” and caused her to believe that her family was nothing more than a dollar sign for funding.

Though it’s been over a month, Parker informed AZ Free News that LTS still hadn’t supplied a copy of the gender identity policy to her.

“Multiple parents have emailed the district office to get clarification on how each campus is to handle this situation. The verdict is that our children would be the ones singled out, by us as parents filling out a form to allow them to use a grown-up bathroom,” said Parker.

Parker shared that LTS sent out multiple emails for a variety of other topics, such as COVID-19 mitigation plans and a new math curriculum, but chose not to disclose its gender identity policy.

“The safety of our children has been put in jeopardy and there was not one email or communication of any sort to inform parents of such a big change. The lack of transparency about this policy is unacceptable,” said Parker. “Not only were we concerned about the safety of our children but also truly disheartened that Legacy, whom we held to such high standards of morals and values, would conform to such an unconservative policy.”

Since its inception in 1972, Title IX protections prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. In July, the Department of Education (DOE) notified Americans that it would extend Title IX protections to ban discriminations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The deadline for public comment on the potential new Title IX protections is next Monday, September 12. As of press time, there were over 152,900 comments on the proposed changes, with just over 48,000 available for review. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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