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Advocates call on Fairbanks school district to address bullying in wake of bathroom incident

FAIRBANKS - Advocates have called on an Alaska school district to do more to protect vulnerable students after a group of boys tried to enter a girls’ restroom at a high school to take photos for social media.

Multiple people spoke Tuesday at a school board meeting of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, criticizing the district’s handling of the bathroom incident, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The group of seven North Pole High School boys tried to enter the bathroom as a "form of protest" after a transgender student had taken a selfie inside the boys' restroom and shared the photo on social media, Superintendent Karen Gaborik said in statement Monday.

The boys were confronted by a girl who kicked one of the boys in the groin, Gaborik said. The students involved were disciplined, but the district did not say how, citing student confidentiality protections.

The girl's mother said her daughter was indefinitely expelled and that the punishment is being appealed.

A school district hearing officer is scheduled this week to hear the discipline appeals, Gaborik said.

A district investigator found no evidence that the boys were threatening or using force during the bathroom incident.

The boys' action was an attempt to bully a transgender student and was not an act of protest, said Hayden Nevill, founder of Gender Pioneers, an activism and support group for transgender people.

The Rev. Leslie Ahuvah Fails told the board that the school district needs to do more to keep transgender students safe.

"The bottom line is that no child should have to be afraid when they go to school," Fails said.

Some parents disagreed with advocates' characterization of events. Fred Sayer told the board that the district should adopt more restrictive restroom policies.

“This has nothing to do with being intolerant but rather keeping students safe,” Sayer said.