QUEER VOICES

NC Official Changes Stance On Pepper Spray In Trans-Friendly School Bathrooms (UPDATE)

"Perverts and pedophiles taking advantage of this law in bathrooms was my major concern," Chuck Hughes said.

UPDATE: 3:35 p.m. -- Chuck Hughes, a board member who voted for students to be allowed to carry defensive sprays, told BuzzFeed Wednesday that he will change his vote. Hughes said he believes that his previous comments were "inappropriate" and that he didn’t mean for them to be related to the LGBT community.

"Perverts and pedophiles taking advantage of this law in bathrooms was my major concern," he told BuzzFeed.

PREVIOUSLY:

High school students in North Carolina may soon be allowed to carry defensive sprays to protect themselves, with one school board member citing transgender bathroom use as a reason to be armed.

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education ruled Monday in favor of allowing the defensive sprays, like mace or pepper spray, on its school campuses beginning this fall, the Salisbury Post reported. The board later said it will review the decision at a meeting later in the month of May.

Board member Chuck Hughes voiced support of students carrying sprays, saying it could be a useful weapon should transgender students be allowed to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

"Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in," Hughes said, according to the Salisbury Post.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner has since spoken out against that train of thought, however, telling the Huffington Post: "This discussion in no way addressed the issue that Mr. Hughes brought up."

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California in Irvine in 2014. The Obama administration is suing North
A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California in Irvine in 2014. The Obama administration is suing North Carolina over its ban of transgender-friendly restrooms.

"He is certainly entitled to his opinion and comments. However, that idea had no bearing on the situation or discussion," Wagner wrote via email Wednesday to HuffPost. "I assure you that the board did not see this as an opportunity to endorse the use of sprays in school for any reason."

Wagner went on to say that the discussion was solely based on general student safety, particularly young women when traveling to and from school, especially in the evening hours.

Hughes' concern alludes to a lawsuit filed by the federal government on Monday against the state's signing of HB2, or the so-called "bathroom bill." It would prevent individuals, specifically transgendered individuals, from using a public restroom that doesn't match their birth gender, and the bill has been called by the Obama administration a violation of civil rights.

Wagner, speaking to WBTV Tuesday, said "concerns" brought up after the meeting have led to the planning of a second review of whether or not defensive sprays will be allowed on school campuses. He went on to say that they've since learned that defensive sprays are not considered a prohibited item from schools by the state statute. The size and quantity of the spray can be regulated by the state, Wagner said.

HuffPost

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