If there’s anyone to blame for the Obama administration’s freshly-issued decree on bathrooms in America’s public schools, it ain’t President Obama. It’s us. You and me. Our school boards. Our state legislatures. Our members of Congress. If you hate the idea of Washington, D.C., telling your local school district whether transgender kids can use a bathroom other than the one that matches their sex, Obama is the last person we should blame.
Years ago, our local school boards and state legislatures surrendered control over our schools to the federal government. We ceded control willingly, often with applause from our own bipartisan hands. We grabbed onto federal grants and swung happily from the ropes of the attached mandates, supposedly freed of the burden of having to pay for our own kids’ school lessons and lunch programs, relieved that someone else would pay the bill.
The money rolled in, and the authority to decide much of anything rolled out. Soon, what our kids learned and what they ate were being determined not by the school board you elected, but by people you’ve never met, who operate in backrooms where you’re not invited to go.
So tight is the federal noose today that we must beg for even the slightest deviation of the collective will of our national masters. In 2013, U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, and Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, cheered the decision of U.S. regulators to allow Greek yogurt to be served in America’s lunchrooms.
I openly teased Crapo, a friend, for his pronouncement that our central government overlords had granted permission to serve Greek yogurt to kids in Twin Falls, not far from the Chobani plant that makes the stuff. Instead of praising the federal government, we should have been criticizing. How dare the United States government dictate what our kids eat or don’t eat. How dare our U.S. senators go along with it, even encourage the control over our public schools’ menu minutia.
The moment we allowed Washington, D.C., to decide what’s for lunch in America’s school cafeteria is the moment we also gave up our rights to decide everything about the operation of our local schoolhouses: what kids are taught, how they’re taught, what they eat and where they poop are now subject to the will of Washington’s pencil pushers and moral busybodies. By accepting federal money and federal mandates, we’ve substituted our judgments for someone else’s.
Today, the federal government has decreed that the boys and girls restrooms are also under its operational control. Just as decisions about lunchroom are coming from Washington, D.C., so too are rules about school lavatories.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s pronouncement, “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind,” may sound laudable, and the Obama administration’s everyone-gets-to-use-the-bathroom-of-their-choice policy might work for some schools and students. But then again it might not.
How schools deal with discrimination — against fat kids, skinny kids, nerdy kids, transgender kids or the Breakfast Club kids — ought to be a discussion that local school boards, parents, teachers and students. It’s not, because someone else has made the decisions for us. Doing so has silenced a necessary, very local and very personal debate. Today, we’re peeved because we at the local level no longer have authority to say where our own kids can relieve themselves. But Obama isn’t the one who opened the bathroom door to the latest outrageous federal edict. We did.
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