There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about transgender students and school bathrooms. Although I don't know anything about the transgender issue, I know something about school bathrooms and I can declare unequivocally, "They are not safe!"
School bathrooms exist somewhere between Lord of the Flies and The Killing Fields. They are a no man's land where even teachers don't tread. If you want to catch someone to beat the crap out of them, the school bathroom is the perfect place to do it. It's certainly not where you want to go if you're the slightest bit different.
And it's not just school bullies who make the bathroom experience perilous. I recall everything about school bathrooms being traumatic, especially in middle school, when I started to physically develop, being one of the first girls in my class to start my menstrual period. That was on top of being the only black child of educated parents in our building, and being the only black girl in my class. In short, I was a target, and the bathroom was not a safe place for me.
My daughter got in the car recently, cautiously excited about an invitation to a birthday party.
"Momma, I got invited to a party. It's from my friend Lyla. You like her. You said she's a nice girl."
I knew from the pitch there was a catch. It had the tone of a salesman hocking an item you sort of want to buy at a price you don't want to pay. I waited for the caveat.
I'll never forget the day I told my cousin I was adopting a child. Her response caught me totally off guard. She first asked "When are you planning to retire?" Then she threatened me with death. Not as in, "I'm going to kill you." It was more like, "It's too late for you to start parenting because you're going to die."
It's the sort of thing I might have ignored from a passing stranger, but this was someone I looked up to as a big sister. I had always known her to be oddly critical. She was the kind of person who would tell you your nail polish didn't look good on your hands, or she might criticize your artwork because it had a white person instead of a black person in it. But I had grown to ignore her dark side and concentrate on her kinder moments, like the time I was 4 years old and she drove me from Lewisville to Hope, Arkansas, to go swimming for the first time ever. And the time she made me a long satin dress so I could march in her wedding. We looked more alike than sisters and I adored her.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.