(STORY UPDATED TO INCLUDE INFORMATION FROM AN EMAIL FROM THE COLUMBIA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON)
No charges have been filed in regard to peeping allegations against a transgender student at Evans High School, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department, and school administrators say they are providing a single-occupancy restroom for the transgender student to avoid future accusations.
Sheriff’s Maj. Steve Morris said no charges were filed because of conflicting statements.
A 14-year-old girl made allegations last Wednesday that the transgender student was peeking through the gaps in a bathroom stall while she was inside. The student said it happened on Aug. 9 and she waited nine days to report it out of fear of being labeled transphobic, according to a sheriff’s report.
But the transgender female denied the allegations. The transgender student said “she is being bullied and people are making false claims due to her being transgender,” according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office report. “She stated she would never touch another girl or try to watch them through the gaps in the stalls. She also stated due to the false rumors of her peeking into the stalls, she has been targeted and is fearful that someone might hurt her,” the report continued.
The girl who made the allegations told authorities that the transgender student had also asked to touch another classmate’s breast and then tried to pull her pants down. That student confirmed the allegation, saying the transgender student “reached towards her breast in the classroom, at which time she swatted their hand away,” a sheriff’s report says.
But the transgender student said she was “trying to look at her necklace,” the report says.
An email from Abbigail Remkus, the Columbia County Board of Education’s spokesperson, said “The school contacted the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, due to the nature of the allegations, in addition to contacting the parents of all students involved. The result of the sheriff’s office investigation revealed no charges would be filed. The school’s administration have and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety of all students.”
Meanwhile, EHS administrators are making accommodations for the transgender student to “prevent any further allegations.”
The allegations were reportedly posted on SnapChat, the sheriff’s report says.
The controversy comes as the federal appeals court in Atlanta on Monday vacated a ruling that said transgender high school students must be granted access to bathrooms that correspond with their identity.
According to media reports, the case will now be heard by the entire 12-member 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sets precedents for Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
In July, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in favor of a transgender student who sought access to the boys’ bathroom at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
In his dissent, Chief Judge Bill Pryor said there was nothing unlawful under the Constitution or federal law about a policy that separates school bathrooms on the basis of sex. The school district’s policy “substantially advances its objective to protect children from exposing their unclothed bodies to the opposite sex,” Pryor said.
It is possible the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately hear the case because there is a split in the circuits. The federal appeals courts in Chicago and Richmond, Va., previously issued decisions that permit transgender students to use bathrooms that match their identity.
Staff writer Skyler Q. Andrews contributed to this story.