PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi school leaders are trying to figure out how to deal with a federal order regarding restroom rights for transgender students. The Obama administration wants every public school in the country to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their chosen gender identity. While many Coast superintendents didn't want to discuss the guidelines, several parents were very vocal.
"I am so upset about it," said Patsy Poole.
"I'm not extremely comfortable with it," said Ashley Martin.
Some Pascagoula parents spoke out Friday after learning about the federal order giving transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms that match their current gender identity.
"My daughters are insecure as it is and it just makes them feel more insecure. We have problems with guys going into girls' bathrooms anyways as it is, and it's made me uncomfortable," said Martin.
"I think that's where the child predators are going to take advantage of this. They're going to, because anybody can say, 'Hey I'm one. I can go in there, and they're not. They're just going in there to attack our kids," said Poole.
While the directive is not considered a mandate, there is fear that schools that do not comply could face a loss of federal funding. That's because federal officials believe bathroom rights are tied to the Title IX anti-discrimination law in education.
"The timing was kind of odd, because it's the end of the school year," said Pascagoula-Gautier Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.
Rodolfich said he received the guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department Friday morning and his staff is still trying to sort out the information.
"Our school district is one of the most diverse districts in the state of Mississippi, so it's nothing new for us to deal with diversity in our schools. The issue is getting what the exact guidelines are going to be and being able to execute what we have to execute on our campuses," said Rodolfich.
Rodolfich said he doesn't know of any transgender students in the district and the decree is aimed at preventing bullying. Some parents say it raises safety concerns.
"Now, I cannot let my grandbabies go into the bathrooms. Yeah, I'm really upset. Something's got to change and something's got to change fast," said Poole.
Rodolfich said the Mississippi School Board Association and its attorneys will likely look over the federal guidelines and come up with a policy. Then, his school board will review it and come up with a final policy.