Pasco County: Chasco Middle School Teacher Refused to Allow Transgender Student into Boy’s Locker Room

Raven Haengel, Photographer, Writer

February 26, 2020. The Pasco County Board of Education has been dealing with the debate on transgender student’s rights after a P.E. teacher was fearing being fired after denying a student who was born female but identified as male, access to the boy’s locker room in 2019. This debate wasn’t a major issue until the same P.E. teacher, who was identified as Rob Oppedisano, posted on Facebook about his opinion on the situation and “the teacher thanked school district officials for granting him a “religious exemption” that would allow him to not use the names and pronouns used by transgender students.” The post has since been deleted. In response to Oppedisano claiming the district threatened firing him, District Employee Relations Director Kathy Scalise said “the employees were reminded of their responsibilities. “But have we threatened them with their jobs? Absolutely not.” The founder of Representatives of Safe Schools for All Students Pasco Myndee Washington responded to Oppedisano’s post “It is in the best interest of all students, faculty and staff in Pasco County that Mr. Oppedisano’s personal religious beliefs, or the personal beliefs of any employee, student, volunteer or guest, not be imposed on any other individual,” According to Liberty Counsel Att. Richard Mast, “You can’t require people to call you what you’re not,” “We hope that the Pasco County School District does the right thing.” “It is not ‘discrimination’ or ‘harassment’ for district staff and students to continue using gender pronouns consistent with binary biological sex rather than any given person’s subjective beliefs about the nature of gender. Government may not force others to call another person something he or she is not, in matters of conscience, religious belief, and biology.” Mast said in his letter to the district in September.  This situation has risen because of Trump’s recent debate on the “federal definition of gender to a person’s physical anatomy at birth — a move that has outraged LGBTQ activists while gaining favor with the Republican base. There has been a recent school board meeting regarding transgender student’s rights and how to approach the situation. Many have spoken their concerns about whether to comply with the student’s pronouns or to just not deal with the student’s entirely. Heather St. Amand is a parent of a transgender student who attends Land O’Lakes High School “I think there’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the things that go on in Pasco County schools, and a lot of misinformation that’s being spread among parents that’s just not true,” and says her child has a “good school experience.” Oppedisano said during the meeting “At what level of undress is appropriate for a 14-year-old girl in front of an adult, male P.E. coach and 30 boys. Another mother named Glori Anna Kirk said, “This clearly sends a message to the other students that the transgender child is more important than they are,” In response St. Amand said, “When she came out to me I was terrified—not because there’s anything wrong with being transgender—my child is the bravest, most self-aware person I know,” “All of this-this is why I was terrified.” During the meeting, the school board remained silent and clearly wanted to stick with their current protocol. There is no “set policy on transgender issues, dealing with each situation separately based on individual circumstances”. The district has claimed to not fire or discipline anybody who went against the decision of the rights towards transgender students.