Senior Staff Writer
Summer Eastwood said she was caught off guard on the January day when her son’s school called to tell her that a transgender male student had walked into the bathroom while her son and a couple other boys were peeing in the urinals.
Eastwood said she thought the Sutherlin School District had a policy that would prevent something like that happening at Sutherlin High
School, where her son was a sophomore. She went to the principal. She went to the district superintendent. She asked for a policy, but she was told there wasn’t one.
The Sutherlin School District’s decision to allow a male transgender student to use the boys…
Then, on Feb. 6, the school district issued a memo. It said that based on legal advice regarding state law, the district would allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identities, whether or not those matched their sex assigned at birth.
Shortly afterward, Eastwood started looking for legal advice. Local attorneys turned her down flat, she said, but the California-based Pacific Justice Institute was willing to take the case. In May, Eastwood and her son, identified in the lawsuit only as T.B., filed a lawsuit against the school district in Douglas County Circuit Court.
Two years ago, Eastwood was one of a large number of parents who testified at a school board hearing about the possibility of exactly this type of event happening.
At that 2016 hearing, she said she would pull her students from the schools if transgender students were allowed to use the bathrooms of the gender they identified with, instead of the gender they were assigned at birth based on their body parts.
Instead, she’s gone to the courts. Her lawsuit asks for an order preventing the transgender student, identified as Tyler, from using the boys’ bathroom. She also asks the court to mandate a school policy requiring students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their “biological sex,” meaning the sex assigned them at birth.
The News-Review interviewed Eastwood about the lawsuit this week. Tyler has agreed to an interview at a later date. The Sutherlin School District declined to comment on the case.
Eastwood expressed confusion at the way news of her lawsuit has blown up on social media, where many people have said it’s about bigotry and hatred directed at transgender people.
She said she doesn’t have anything against Tyler. Despite the fact that the case explicitly mentions Tyler and seeks a ruling on where he should be allowed to go to the bathroom, Eastwood said this really shouldn’t be seen as a case about Tyler. She disagreed with the executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, who told The News-Review earlier this week that this case was “bullying by lawsuit.”
Eastwood said her problem is with the school district, and what it’s allowing students to do.
“How is it bullying just because I don’t agree with that decision? I’m not attacking her (Tyler) at all,” Eastwood said.
She said her concern is protecting her son and other kids from an invasion of privacy.
Eastwood said the boys who were in the bathroom were embarrassed having Tyler in the bathroom, and that they worried knowing it might happen again.
“It was awkward. I know it was awkward. Everybody that was in there felt awkward. The boys that were in there felt awkward, uncomfortable,” she said. And she said the situation repeated several times, and that other parents contacted her after those incidents to express their support for what she was doing.
She wouldn’t comment about how her son is currently feeling about the bathroom issue, but the lawsuit alleges he has experienced feelings of anxiety.
Eastwood said she doesn’t understand why Tyler couldn’t just use the single-stall unisex bathrooms that the school district offered transgender students as a solution back in 2016.
Though she wouldn’t answer when asked if she views Tyler as a girl, she said bathroom use should be based on body parts, not on the way a transgender student feels.
“I want it to be a case about vaginas and penises, basically, you know. Ultimately it’s not about life choices of what you feel, or gay or lesbian or transgender. It’s really about just privacy and safety in the bathrooms at school,” she said.
And not just bathrooms, but locker rooms are of concern to Eastwood.
“I’ve had several girls express their concerns to me that they’re going to be in the locker room dressing down, and what if somebody comes in there, a boy comes in there. And it’s not even that they’re concerned that it’s actually a transgender boy. It’s just going to be a boy who’s identifying as a girl,” she said.
She said she could envision a situation where a few boys were sitting around a table and dared one of the boys to say he was a girl and go into the girls’ locker room.
“Who’s looking into this to make sure that’s really what they identify as?” she asked. “Has anybody verified that?”
Eastwood said her children are important to her, and she just wants to keep them safe.
“They should be able to go in that bathroom, not worried about who’s going to walk in there behind them,” she said.
Tyler, who commented on The News-Review’s website responding to a Thursday story about the case, suggested T.B. should be the one to use the unisex bathroom if he was uncomfortable. As for the idea that his gender identity is just about feelings, Tyler wrote “I don’t ‘feel’ like anything. I ‘am’ a guy.” Gender, he wrote, isn’t just about genitals.
“Gender is an identity, not a body part. See it like this, why do we call a musician a musician? It’s because that’s what they are. They don’t ‘feel’ that way they ‘are’ that way, and you can’t change that,” he wrote.