North Pole High School Bathroom Incident: the Facts

On Jan. 11, 2022, a Reddit post on the r/MurderedByWords subreddit omitted several details from a bathroom incident that occurred at North Pole High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2019.

Reddit Post

The thread on Reddit was presented as a screenshot of a tweet and a reply, both from Twitter:

The screenshot from the Reddit post.

The first tweet from the Fairbanks News-Miner read: “A girl enrolled at North Pole High School was reportedly suspended for using excessive force on a boy last week after a group of boys entered the girl’s bathroom and blocked the door, according to Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole.”

The response from @Karnythia said: “So…after all the bullshit bathroom panic bills about trans kids, when a group of cis boys actually harass girls in a bathroom the girls are punished for defending themselves?”

Several details from the story were missing from the Reddit post and some of its top comments.

The Story

According to The Associated Press, the incident occurred at the door of a girl’s bathroom at North Pole High School on April 4, 2019. The entire story involved seven boys, a girl, and a transgender student who was transitioning from female to male:

An Alaska lawmaker is criticizing a school district after she says a student was wrongly suspended after the student defended herself against a group of boys who trapped the girl inside a bathroom.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson said Friday she would have taught her daughter to do the same.

Wilson says a group of boys at North Pole High School had apparently gone into the girls’ bathroom to protest the use of the boys’ bathroom by a student who is transitioning from female to male.

Wilson says after the girl was blocked from leaving the bathroom, she kneed a boy, who was then sent to the hospital.

The school district says seven boys were disciplined in connection with the incident.

The main takeaway was the fact that the boys who were involved in the altercation were, in fact, disciplined. This was not mentioned in the Reddit post. One of the top comments in the thread said: “Schools refuse to punish bullies, but will stomp on anyone who dares to fight back.” In the case of the North Pole High School incident, this comment was misleading.

Also, there may have been some confusion about the girl who was “blocked from leaving the bathroom.” This was not the same student who was “transitioning from female to male,” nor was there any indication that the transitioning student was in or near the bathroom at the time, according to the following findings made by the school district.

School District Statement

The full statement from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District laid out more details that were not included in the Reddit post or its top comments. According to Chief School Administrator Karen Gaborik, it all began with a Snapchat post:

The series of events at North Pole High School began when a student transitioning from female to male took a selfie in the boys’ restroom on Monday, April 1, and posted on Snapchat.

Some male students at the school were upset about the public nature of the post and restroom use. There was, and continues to be, conversation among students regarding transgender students at NPHS and the use of restrooms. Teachers, counselors, support staff and administrators are helping students navigate that dialogue. The district provides additional counselors to schools whenever it is determined assistance is needed.

A group of male students decided to go into a girls’ restroom to take a Snapchat of their own, similar to what the transgender student did, as a form of protest.

On April 4, a group of male students began to enter the restroom. Only one male student actually proceeded past the door frame. The other male students followed behind him and were not yet in the restroom. A female student (not the transgender student) was exiting the restroom at the time the first male student began to enter. The female student kicked the first male student in the groin. The male students turned around and left the area.

An investigation conducted by the district’s Title IX investigator began on April 4 and continued through April 8, in which numerous statements and relevant evidence were collected. Based on the results of the investigation, school administration issued discipline on April 8 to both the female student and to seven male students involved in the incident. The male students were disciplined for attempting to enter the restroom. There was not evidence that the male students were threatening any student or using any type of force toward other students.

The statement also said that “none of the students involved in the incident on April 4 were told they could not attend prom,” which occurred on Saturday, April 6. This meant that they were allowed to go to the school function, if they wished to do so. Discipline was issued two days later on Monday, April 8.

It was unclear if the disciplinary action decided on for the girl who was exiting the bathroom was a suspension, as Wilson claimed. “We cannot release all details related to this event — student disciplinary actions are confidential as a matter of law and district policy,” the district said in its statement.

Sources:

beerbellybegone. “Well Yeah, the Whole Thing Was Crap to Begin With.” Reddit.com/r/MurderedByWords, 11 Jan. 2022, www.reddit.com/r/MurderedByWords/comments/s1a5vp/well_yeah_the_whole_thing_was_crap_to_begin_with/.

 

Bohman, Amanda. “Alaska Lawmaker Criticizes School District’s Handling of Bathroom Incident.” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 12 Apr. 2019, https://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/alaska-lawmaker-criticizes-school-district-s-handling-of-bathroom-incident/article_87bf9512-5d69-11e9-8bdc-5bf8b3872ca3.html.

 

“Lawmaker Criticizes District’s Handling of Bathroom Incident.” AP News, 13 Apr. 2019, https://apnews.com/article/c07cda180f5946d388f2b0258973c55e.

 

“North Pole High Student Discipline.” Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Apr. 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20190910091729/https://www.k12northstar.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=3780&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=498044&PageID=1.

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