Education Week - March 30, 2016 - (Page 8)
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
Legal conflicts with
federal law may arise
By Evie Blad
North Carolina last week became
the first state to set restrictions on
the restrooms and locker rooms that
transgender students use at public
schools after lawmakers included
those policies in a bill that passed in
a whirlwind one-day special session.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory acted
swiftly to sign the measure-over the
protests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender advocacy groups-setting
the stage for potential legal conflicts
between the state's schools and the
U.S. Department of Education, which
has said that public schools are required to honor transgender students'
gender identity under Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972.
The legislation drew greater national attention for its other provisions, which nullify a local anti-discrimination ordinance set to go into
effect in Charlotte, ban such measures in other cities, and require operators of all public buildings to use
a person's biological sex-defined as
the sex indicated on their birth certificate-to determine which singlesex restrooms they can access.
The bill passed the state Senate
32-0 after Democrats walked out in
protest. Earlier, it passed the House
In a statement that focused largely
on the Charlotte ordinance, which was
intended to protect LGBT residents
from discrimination, including discrimination in which public restrooms
they are allowed to use, McCrory said
such policies violate the "basic expectation of privacy in the most personal
of settings, a restroom or locker room."
Lawmakers who spoke in favor of
the bill said the definition of biological sex is less ambiguous than that
of gender identity, and that men with
bad intentions might pose as transgender women to gain access to girls'
restrooms if access isn't limited by
But parents, community leaders,
and a transgender student told lawmakers the provision in the bill that
requires school boards to adopt policies limiting access to facilities would
only further stigmatize transgender
students, who already struggle with
high rates of dropping out of school,
suicide, and depression. And the
North Carolina ACLU quickly vowed
to challenge the measure.
Sky Thomson, a 15-year-old transgender boy, told lawmakers that forbidding him and his peers from using
the boys' restroom "gives bullies all
the more reason to pick on us."
"Imagine yourself in my place:
being a boy, walking into the ladies'
room," he said. "It's awkward, embarrassing, and even dangerous."
Thomson's mother, Deborah Thomson, said that some transgender students avoid drinking water to reduce
their need to use the restroom. "On a
practical level, telling schools that my
son can't use the appropriate bathroom means that my son's education
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology
Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
By Sean Cavanagh
A new nonprofit organization has
set out to help school districts compare the prices they pay for education
technology and examine the fairness
and logic of their procurement practices and contracts with vendors.
That organization, the Technology
for Education Consortium, has come
out of the gate swinging-having released data that questions the prices
that Apple is charging districts for a
popular model of iPads.
The consortium says its research,
based on surveys of 40 districts,
shows that the prices those systems
paid for iPads with the same features
and design ranged from $367 to $499.
That gap can't be explained by the
volume of the purchases or related
factors, the organization argues.
Filling a Void
The consortium's evaluation of
iPads is the first it has conducted
and released publicly. It chose a big
venue to unveil its data: the South
by Southwest Education conference,
an annual event held in Austin,
Texas, earlier this month that drew
digital providers and educators from
around the country.
Apple, a giant Silicon Valley tech
manufacturer with a major presence
in schools, responded to the consortium's data by saying that without
having more details on the prices
paid by specific districts, it couldn't
know if the cost figures are accurate, or skewed by unknown factors.
The consortium will soon produce
other evaluations of ed-tech pricing,
including one focused on what dis-
tricts are paying for Chromebooks,
said Hal Friedlander, the consortium's CEO and co-founder.
Friedlander knows something
about the pressures districts face in
buying technology. He used to serve
as chief information officer for the
New York City schools. Harold Levy,
a former chancellor with the school
system, is board chairman of the
consortium, which has received initial funding from the Bill & Melinda
"Every year American K-12 schools
spend billions of dollars on education
technology," the organization says on
its website. "Until now, they didn't
have the tools to know if that money
was being spent effectively."
The consortium intends to fill that
void by collecting data from individual districts about their ed-tech purchases and sharing it with members.
The value of the consortium will
depend partly on its ability to collect and share information among
a large enough stable of districts to
make its conclusions about various
K-12 ed-tech products and policies
both relevant and accurate, said
Steven Ross, a professor of educational research at Johns Hopkins
"The fewer that are involved, the
more bias there would be," Ross
But given the pressures district
administrators face, and the lack of
objective data they have to make big
buying decisions, Ross said the goals
of the consortium are appealing.
Right now, "people don't have information," Ross said. "I don't see where
it hurts having more of it available."
The organization, which launched
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 30, 2016 | www.edweek.org
earlier this year, focused initially on
the price districts are being charged
for Apple iPad Airs. In an effort to compare the same devices across districts,
the consortium said it focused on iPad
Airs with 16 gigabytes and the same
standard manufacturer's warranty.
The group says it found that the
price for the same iPads varied in
different districts from about $370
to nearly $500 per unit. The data
Until now, [K-12
schools] didn't have
the tools to know
if [ed-tech] money
was being spent
TECHNOLOGY FOR EDUCATION
showed that the prices did not follow
any pattern consistent with the size of
the 40 districts, which included some
of the nation's largest, and relatively
small systems, such as one with less
than 8,000 students. The price was
also not connected to volume, or the
numbers of units bought by those individual systems, Friedlander said.
The consortium released its data
in aggregate, and did not reveal the
names of the individual districts, or
what each of them paid. Friedlander
said the organization's rationale is
will be compromised," she said.
The new law allows students to
use single-occupancy restrooms, but
LGBT student advocates have said
such accommodations are stigmatizing and amount to unequal treatment.
North Carolina's law takes its
schools into uncharted territory.
Although other states have introduced bills that would limit facilities
access in schools, North Carolina's is
the first that has been signed into law.
Tennessee's legislature is currently
considering such a bill. South Dakota
lawmakers recently passed similar
restrictions, but Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed that bill, saying
it interfered with local control and did
not "address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South
Dakota." Sponsors of the South Dakota measure said they drafted it in
response to "federal overreach."
The federal Education Department
has asserted in court and in civil
rights guidance to schools in recent
that it did not want to embarrass
school systems saddled with heftier
costs than others, but rather to provide them with useful comparisons.
But as a service to the districts, the
consortium will provide them with
national and regional pricing data.
It also expects to share pricing data
between administrators in comparable K-12 systems, with their consent,
Apple officials, in a statement to
Education Week, would not comment in detail on the consortium's
findings, saying the data were not
specific enough for them to judge
individual districts' prices or what
factors may have shaped those costs.
But the company argued that a
number of factors could potentially
alter the results. One of which is that
the price Apple charges for iPads-
as with many products in the market-tends to be highest when products are initially released, then falls
after that. It was not clear from the
consortium's data at what point individual K-12 systems bought the
iPads, and what prices they paid,
Apple said in its statement.
In addition, Apple officials also
said that even if districts evaluated
by the consortium were using the
same devices, it was possible that
the company negotiated to provide
those individual K-12 systems with
other products attached to the devices, such as software or professional development. That could have
affected the cost, the company said.
The company forwarded a previous statement from its CEO, Tim
Cook, in which he spoke of the company's desire to "create products
that are a whole solution for people-that allow kids to create and
engage on a different level."
Friedlander was skeptical of Apple's explanations. He said the consortium's data do not show any pattern of districts paying less if they
bought the iPads at a later time.
years that Title IX's protections for
sex also extend to sexual orientation
and gender identity. In November,
the department's office for civil rights
found an Illinois district in violation
of the law because it would not grant
a transgender girl unrestricted access
to the girls' locker room. Under threat
of penalties, including a possible loss
of federal funding, the district hung
privacy curtains in the locker room
and agreed to allow the student to
School law experts say the department's interpretation of Title IX isn't
legally binding. A federal judge in
Virginia rejected the interpretation
last year in a transgender student's
lawsuit, and a review of that decision
is pending before an appeals court.
"The department is committed to
protecting the rights of transgender
students under Title IX, and will
continue to work diligently to ensure that all students receive equal
access to educational opportunities
in accordance with federal law," Education Department spokeswoman
Dorie Nolt said in a statement.
He also was not convinced that other
features or services were attached to
districts' iPad purchases in ways that
would have raised the devices' costs.
Those additional features and services
would likely have been broken out by
the districts, and noted by the consortium's researchers, he said.
The consortium hopes that administrators from districts participating
in the study will share information
with each other. Some districts could
use the data to negotiate better deals
with vendors on their own. Or districts could use the information to
band together and make cooperative
purchases, Friedlander said.
When he was a school administrator, Friedlander said he would often
speak with other chief information
officers around the country, "all having the same frustrations." He hopes
his organization will ensure that
more of those discussions take place.
For most chief information officers,
"there are a lot of fires to put out
every day," he said, and many administrators "operate in silos."
Ross agreed, noting that K-12
officials buying ed-tech are often
forced to make decisions about buying technology that is constantly
evolving-often faster than academic researchers studying it can
keep up-and as state and local
academic standards shift.
Partly as a result, district officials
rely on word-of-mouth recommendations about ed tech from other K-12
system administrators. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though efforts
like the consortium's project could
bring valuable structure to the peerto-peer information sharing, he said.
"School district administrators
are really overburdened these days,"
said Ross, and they need information
about ed-tech quickly: "They don't
have the luxury of being researchers."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 30, 2016
Education Week - March 30, 2016
State Boards Feel New Need To Flex Muscles
Distress Call Issued On K-12 Facilities
Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?
Sanders Gets Educators’ Attention Despite Limited Specifics on K-12
Table of Contents
DAVID GAMBERG: What Makes a School?
News in Brief
Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting To Dissipate?
ACT’s New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
Home Schooling Gains Popularity With Military Families
Blogs of the Week
‘Teach to Lead’ Projects Face Uphill Climb at State Level
Hearing Weighs Student-Data Privacy Concerns
High Court Weighing Birth-Control Mandate
ESSA Rule Negotiators Grapple With Issues of Flexibility, Equity
ROBERT EVANS: Principals, Get Your Irish On
PATRICK O’CONNOR: Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching
JONATHAN ECKERT: Finding Joy in Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 30, 2016