Georgia school district adopted trans student bathroom policy. Then came the death threats.

“There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism,” the school district said of why it reversed course on its new bathroom policy for trans students.
Image: Transgender Rights march
Transgender and non-binary individuals and supporters stroll through the city's Midtown district during Gay Pride's Transgender Rights march in Atlanta on Oct. 12, 2019.Robin Rayne / AP
By Ben Kesslen

A Georgia school district is ending its new bathroom policy for transgender students in response to death threats and other harassment.

Pickens County School District cited “many serious safety concerns” in a statement Wednesday explaining its decision to reverse the policy that allowed trans students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

“There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property,” officials from the district, based in Jasper about 60 miles north of Atlanta, wrote. “The District understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the District has concerns that it may not be able to meet these recently increased demands.”

The district said it implemented the policy in accordance with Adams v. the School Board of St. John’s County, Florida, a federal case in which a court ruled a Florida school system must allow a 16-year-old trans boy to use the men’s room.

The 2018 case was decided in the 11th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Georgia in addition to Florida and Alabama. The St. Johns County district, which encompasses St. Augustine south of Jacksonville, has appealed the case, which is scheduled for a hearing in December, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Pickens County schools' decision comes after a heated Monday night school board meeting attended by almost 600 people ⁠— a large showing for a county of just over 30,000 residents. Close to 50 people spoke for or against the policy, NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA reported.

“You should be able to use any restroom that you want to use,” Kayla Hollyfield said at the emotionally-charged meeting, according to WXIA. "This is not about left or right. It’s about equal rights. It’s not an agenda."

“I would never in my life use a restroom in which a female is in,” Nathan Berfield said in opposition to the policy, drawing resounding applause from the audience.

Many parents at the meeting got visibly angry about the policy, video shows, with some citing common and unfounded fears that allowing trans students to use the bathroom of their choice would lead to men using the women's room for insidious purposes.

The district's superintendent has said the trans bathroom policy was enacted largely to avoid a lawsuit that officials feared might bankrupt the small school system, WXIA reported.

Now the district said it will return to its former bathroom procedures “until it can consult with law enforcement and other safety professionals so that these concerns may be addressed.”

"We ask that all of our stakeholders exercise patience and discretion until these matters can be resolved," the district statement said.

Its high school still maintains single-stall restrooms that are available to any student who wants to use gender-neutral restrooms, WXIA reported.

The district did not immediately respond to a request by NBC News for details of its old bathroom policy.