Back when she was in elementary school, Maddie Rose knew exactly which bathroom to use. But when classes began at her newly-reopened middle school last week in rural Achille, Oklahoma, the 12-year-old transgender student had no idea where to go when she had to go.
“She hadn’t been told where the staff bathroom was before she was able to be told,” Maddie’s mother, Brandy Rose, said. “She had to pee. She used the girls’ bathroom one single time.”
The ensuing outrage has since resulted in legal action by the girl’s parents, and a two-day school closure.
It’s unclear how parents learned of the pre-teen’s restroom usage, but it didn’t take long for angry Achille parents to start raging against the inclusivity machine. In the unofficial Facebook group for parents of district students, Jamie Crenshaw, a lovely gem of a cisgender woman—who probably would never describe herself as bigoted or transphobic—started the completely hateful and unfounded panic with this oh-so-classy post.
Crenshaw’s post, which has since been deleted, sparked a steady stream of hateful and violent diatribes against the child, and transgender folks in general. One comment, citing what “a good, sharp knife” could do to the child, stands out as particularly heinous. Another commenter encouraged parents to “(j)ust tell the kids to kick ass in the bathroom and it won’t want to come back!!”
You read that right—these grown folks, in a town of about 500, referred to a human child as “it.”
Sooner State LGBTQ activists quickly learned of the transphobic dialogue, and entered the fray. The Oklahoma City chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays offered assistance to the family, and promised to contact the school district.
Grown adults threatening mutilation of a preteen trans child in our own backyard. This is unacceptable – if anyone knows the parents of this child, please let them know that we want to help in any way possible. To the Achille ISD: Expect to hear from us soon. https://t.co/Be8dhuHLfT
— PFLAG Oklahoma City (@OKCPFLAG) August 12, 2018
Free Mom Hugs, a mom-driven nonprofit devoted to sharing “our stories and love in hopes to see change in the world around us,” also chimed in, offering “resources and connections…to create a time for LGBTQ sensitivity training among your board, staff, and/or student body.”
The Rose family, meanwhile, responded by filing an order of protection against Burney Crenshaw, who was tagged in the original post made by his wife Jamie. The Achille Independent School District responded by cancelling school for two days.
“Yeah (we are concerned). We’re preparing for the worst. I mean, that’s what you have to do,” Achille Superintendent Rick Beene said.
Beene insists that Crenshaw’s original post is the only one made by a district resident, and that the other malicious content was written by people in “other parts” of Oklahoma and Texas. It’s unclear if that’s true, but considering that Achille is less than seven miles away from the Texas border, that’s not particularly reassuring. It’s not like people haven’t traveled to commit hate crimes in the past.
It’s that fear of the unknown that fueled the shutdown.
Beene said they were asked to close schools for part of the week, citing the possibility of demonstrations.
“The thought was, for law enforcement, that you can have an opposing group that might be here and that could lead to problems so law enforcement asked me if we could shut down until Wednesday so they didn’t have to worry about those 360 kids in addition to what they were already having to deal with,” Beene said. “The problem is, when you get into a small town, you don’t have to get a permit to demonstrate, therefore the problem with that is you don’t know who’s showing up, you don’t know what time they’re going to show up or anything like that.”
Maddie, a seventh-grader, has been living as a female for years, according to her mother, who also explained the accusation Crenshaw made in her post.
“(S)he started at Achille as Maddie,” Rose said. “We had no problems when we first started.”
Trouble started when Maddie was accused by another student peeping under a bathroom stall.
“My daughter leans very far forward to use the bathroom,” Rose explained. “I can understand why someone seeing her lean forward would think, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s trying to look under.'”
Maddie didn’t get in trouble, but started using the staff bathroom, and had been doing that for the past two years.
Maddie shouldn’t have to use a staff bathroom, but thanks to the Trump administration’s 2017 rollback of Obama-era protections, there’s no law that promises her the right to use the restroom that matches her gender identity, or any legal recourse available to fight back if her school forbids it.
Worst of all, this twelve-year-old now fears for her life.
“That’s a threat against her life–that’s scary,” Rose said. “These are adults making threats– I don’t understand it.”
Rose said her usually upbeat and positive daughter is afraid for her life.
“She’s an awesome kid. To see any fear in her, I can’t explain how bad that hurts me for them to hurt her.”
As advocacy organizations continue to flood the school district—Superintendent Beene tells KFOR that he’s gotten at least 300 emails as of Monday—it’s clear that the resources needed to help Achille residents and school staff do better are available. Superintendent Beene, for one, seems ready to learn.
Beene said they are open to new resources for training.
“I need education; we all need to be educated. It’s certainly something that people didn’t deal with 20, 30 years ago,” he told News 4.
Beene also insists that it’s the adults, not the kids, who are the problem, and that beyond the “infamous” Facebook group, the district does not think Maddie has been bullied by students.
The FBI is continuing to investigate the situation, in order to determine whether or not any hate crimes have been committed.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.