South Western continues debate over transgender bathroom policy

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Officials at the Hanover-area South Western School District continue to mull changes to bathroom and locker room policies in response to a few parents and a board member who raised concerns about transgender students.

The district's initial proposal called for offering students multiple options for using bathrooms and locker rooms.

That policy called for splitting the two current gendered options into five: male and female facilities based on sex assigned at birth, male and female based on gender identity and single-user gender-neutral facilities.

The South Western school board meeting regarding transgender students’ bathroom and locker room usage in Hanover on Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2023.

Following the school board's May 10 meeting, it's not clear where the issue could be heading next, as various board members advocate for very different policies.

Board member Matthew Gelazela advocated for a highly restrictive policy similar to Red Lion's emergency directive, calling for students to use the facilities that align with the gender on their birth certificates. That proposal was rejected by South Western in an 8-to-1 vote.

>>Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

During the most recent meeting, Gelazela said he was “not comfortable with delegating” the matter to Superintendent Jay Burkhart, who helped draft the five-option proposal.

Gelazela now advocates for the district to adopt a policy similar to the model policy put forth by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration last September. According to The Washington Post, that model policy directed Virginia's 133 school districts to adopt a policy — similar to Red Lion's — requiring students to use facilities that match their bith sex.

The South Western school board meeting regarding transgender students’ bathroom and locker room usage in Hanover on Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2023.

The Virginia policy also requires students who wish to change their name or gender on school transcripts to get parental approval, The Washington Post reported. Staff would be barred from referring to students by their preferred pronouns without their parents' consent.

MORE:Once homeless, this York restaurateur found success in burger business

MORE:Wrightsville, a quiet borough, is shaping up to be a 2023 political battleground

MORE:Former Fat Daddy's nightclub to make way for Panda Express

Board member Amanda Weaver, meanwhile, said she visited a Lancaster County high school that faced this issue a few years prior and addressed it by making individual showers and changing stalls. She added that the district redesigned the locker rooms to have three options now and no one can see anyone changing in the stalls. 

“You cannot see who’s inside of it,” she said about the stalls. 

Because of how private the stalls are, any adult can monitor the locker rooms as the students change. 

Cindy Boyer, on left, and Amanda Weaver, on right, at the South Western Board of Education meeting in Hanover on Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2023.

“Because no one is in a state of undress at any time in public,” she said. 

Weaver said this is something the board should consider before starting a planned high school renovation because it can provide safety for every student.

>>Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

All of these proposals led to questions of cost from board members.

Burkhart said the high school renovations already feature private-use bathrooms in the design. The district, meanwhile, is exploring the cost of converting bathrooms and locker rooms to feature private stalls.

MORE:Red Lion trans students told to use bathrooms of sex assigned at birth or gender neutral

MORE:Obesity is an issue in York's schools. These local women are aiming to change that

MORE:Central York superintendent sets deadline for new districtwide book policy amid book ban protests

Board Vice President Amanda Yiengst said she was going to speak with the YMCA of the Roses soon to learn how their organization handles bathrooms. 

Board members plan to revisit the issue in a few weeks after reviewing the new information. 

The next board meeting is 7 p.m. May 24 at 225 Bowman Road, Hanover. The meeting can be attended in-person and online via the district's YouTube page at

— Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.