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Ninth grader says she’ll fail high school if she has transgender classmates

A Pennsylvania teen wants to take on the federal bathroom-access policy.


Mary Emily O'Hara


Posted on Aug 29, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 3:52 am CDT

Sigourney Coyle doesn’t have any transgender classmates that she knows of—nor has she even started her freshman year at Emmaus High School yet. But that didn’t stop her from speaking out against the theoretical concept of someday having a transgender classmate when she enters the Pennsylvania school this fall.

On Monday, 13-year-old Coyle—encouraged by her mother Aryn—spoke to the East Penn School Board about the federal government’s bathroom access policy, which it clarified in a letter to school boards nationwide this May.

“It said two things: You can’t make a transgender change in a private facility because it’s discrimination and segregation,” Coyle said of the Obama administration’s letter in a video that has now been posted to her mother’s Facebook page. “It also said you can’t make a transgender change in front of someone they don’t identify with.”

The entering high school freshman continued: “But if you put my name in there…you can’t make me change in a private facility. I’m a woman and I identify as a woman. And you can’t make me change in front of someone I don’t identify with, who is physically male.”

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Coyle went on to say that because she does not feel comfortable changing in front of students who might be transgender, she would fail gym for not participating, and thus flunk out of high school.

The student also said that the Emmaus High School principal gave her an accommodation—allowing her to postpone taking gym class until the summer in order to give her time to, ostensibly, continue fighting the federal policy.

In an interview with Morning Call just after the school board meeting, Coyle’s mother spoke about her daughter’s privacy rights in school.

“Although transgender students are going through a very difficult time and deserve some sort of special accommodations for their situation,” said mom Aryn, “this is not the correct accommodation, to violate the privacy of everybody else.”

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*First Published: Aug 29, 2016, 12:03 pm CDT