GLAAD to media: Don't get duped by fabricated stories of transgender youth harassing students

Following the passage of the Schools Success and Opportunity Act or AB1266, anti-transgender organizations like the Pacific Justice Institute have mobilized to repeal the law. And in so doing, they have fabricated stories in order to scare people into supporting their petition.

Fortunately, The TransAdvocate has been thorough at debunking each of the stories as they have come up. The one of the main sources of misinformation about transgender students has been an anti-LGBT organization known as the Pacific Justice Institute. You can see a full profile on Media Matters. You can also see a list of statements by its President, Brad Dacus as a part of GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project.

The most notable misrepresentation is a story in which the Pacific Justice Institute claimed that a Colorado transgender girl was harassing other girls in the school restroom. This story quickly spread through right-wing media and even captured mainstream media attention. In reality, there was no harassment. Cristan Williams of The TransAdvocate contacted the school, several students, and the administration, all of whom affirmed that there is a transgender student at the school, but that there were no reports of harassment.

The Pacific Justice Institute has backed up their false claims by stating that the transgender student is a "harassing presence" just by existing. They have even gone so far as to state that the transgender student is "visually raping" students by using the facilities. The Pacific Justice Institute has broadcasted the student's name, making her a target of her own harassment and death threats. She is currently on suicide watch, due to the harassment the Pacific Justice Institute has directed to her.

Second false story which gathered mainstream media attention was when the Salt & Light Council claimed to San Diego's ABC affiliate that a Los Angeles transgender student was peeking over restroom stalls. The Los Angeles School District has had a policy much like AB1266 for several years, with little incident. The TransAdvocate contacted the school about the reports. Here's what an official from the school said:

They did get the complaint and it turned out that it was fabricated by one of the parents who opposes transgender students in schools. So it was an unfortunate situation, to have to put the students through, but it was fabricated.

The third story didn't make it into mainstream media attention, and now that The TransAdvocate has debunked it, it should not. This was shared by a petition gatherer, attempting to get the 500,000 signatures to put a repeal of AB1266 onto the ballot. In a recorded conversation, the petition gatherer states that she is an employee of the Oakland School District, which also has a policy similar to AB1266, and that the school district has seen rapes and molestations, and attempts to link it to protections for transgender students.

The TransAdvocate called the Oakland School District to verify the claims, and received the following response:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Contrary to the allegations contained in your email, we have not received reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment perpetrated by transgender students. Nor does OUSD support efforts to marginalize this population. Quite the opposite, OUSD has been a leader in advocating for equitable treatment where gender and sexual orientation are concerned. - Troy Flint, Director of Communications, Oakland Unified School District

These three stories demonstrate the lies and misinformation that are being spread about transgender students. In all three instances, no harassment has occurred. If AB1266 is placed on the ballot in California, the mainstream media needs to verify and fact check any claims about harassment. Such lies are intended to scare the population into marginalizing transgender students.

Quite the opposite of the Pacific Justice Institute's claims, according to GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey, 63.9% of students were verbally harassed in school because of their gender expression, and 27.1% were physically harassed. Moreover, nearly forty percent of LGBT students said they avoided locker rooms and bathrooms because they felt unsafe. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 78% of students who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity in school were harassed.

The TransAdvocate has done an incredible job of debunking lies, myths, and rumors about AB1266 and fabricated stories about transgender students. As more attention is given to AB1266, the media should be aware that anti-transgender advocates are not being truthful in their claims, and those claims need to be put into context. Given the Pacific Justice Institute's history of fabricating stories, any future claims should be thoroughly investigated.