A group of legislators sent Mississippi Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright a letter this week demanding she reverse course and not adhere to the Obama administration’s recent transgender directive regarding school bathroom and locker rooms, a move Gov. Phil Bryant has also criticized.
In a release Wednesday morning, State Superintendent Wright did just that, instructing MDE to “take no action at this time regarding the non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.”
Coast lawmakers were not listed among those who signed the letter to Dr. Wright, however south Mississippi senators and representatives expressed strong opinions on the issue.
“It’s hard to believe that anyone would take the position that having men/boys in a restroom or shower with females is a good idea,” state Rep. Manly Barton (R) said Wednesday. “I can’t imagine this happening to my daughter or wife. I think the federal government has finally gone so far over the line that many states are going to fight back.”
State Rep. Charles Busby (R) agreed.
“The directive is just another example of federal overreach, once again using the oval office to attempt to progress a liberal agenda,” Busby said. “It appeases a miniscule portion of the population with no regard for the position of most Mississippians.”
Busby added, “MDE is a political subdivision of the state of Mississippi and as such are answerable to our governor, legislature and citizens. They should ignore Obama’s directive.”
Rep. Barton is prepared for a legislative fight or even a legal battle with Dr. Wright should she and the Board of Education return to their original stance of adhering to the directive.
“I believe the State of Mississippi has a stated position. The leadership has indicated they will fight this in court if necessary,” Barton said. “If Dr. Wright can’t bring herself to act in the best interest of our kids and work with the leadership in opposing this then she should resign or be terminated. If she wants a fight with the legislature she can certainly get that.”
State Sen. Michael Watson (R) took to Facebook Tuesday evening to express his disdain of the Mississippi Department of Education’s willingness to comply with the school directive while urging citizens to contact the state Board of Education and also calling for Dr. Wright’s resignation or removal.
Watson wrote: “…Not only did Dr. Wright decide to impose her political leanings on the entire state, but she also acted unconstitutionally in doing so by unilaterally deciding the MS DOE would adhere to the joint guidance issued by the U.S. DOE and the U.S. DOJ. It’s the board’s job to formulate policy, not hers. It’s time for her to go. Her work here is done. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to contact every board member and make sure your voice is heard…”
The impact of this federal directive on coast schools is being considered by school administrators and lawmakers. Rep. Busby has not been made aware of any issues this new edict would address in schools within his House District.
“I saw that Superintendent Rodolfich said he knew of no transgender students in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District so there’s no impact there,” Busby said. “I haven’t heard from Dr. Potter or Dr. Vincent at Ocean Springs and Moss Point but I haven’t heard of any issues with this subject matter prior to Washington’s problem-seeking-solution.”
Rep. Barton is concerned that this directive will impact public school attendance and even perhaps federal funding should the state have to take a stand against the administration.
“If this is allowed I believe the impact on our schools will be terrible. I believe you’ll see more parents take their students out of public school and send them to a private schools or home school,” Barton said, “If it came down to losing funding for our schools I’m not sure how we handle that right now. It’s certainly something we have to prepare for. But that’s what the court is for.”
Rep. Scott DeLano (R) said he expects school officials to look at safety first and such policies should be discussed on the local level.
“We entrust in our school boards and school administrators the safety of our children. This is paramount to any other responsibility they have,” DeLano said. “If our local school boards and/or superintendents feel this DOE/DOJ directive will cause disruption in our schools or jeopardize the safety of our children in any way whatsoever, I expect them to take appropriate actions, including ignoring this directive.”
DeLano added, “In this specific case, our local school boards and administrators are tasked with establishing policies and practices to deal with a wide variety of social issues, including dealing with transgender students. Each school district and, for that matter, each school building may require a different policy. I am confident our local school officials are more than capable of addressing this issue. No blanket federal mandate is needed or warranted.”
State Senator Brice Wiggins (R) expressed his faith in local school officials to make the right choice for Mississippi citizens.
“Rest assured that I have faith in our local school superintendents that they understand we operate by Mississippi values, not D.C. values,” Wiggins said in a statement to constituents. “Should I hear something to the contrary, I will be happy to use whatever influence I have.”