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The Voice of the Black Community

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Transgender student takes on CPCC
Sexual identification sparks campus protest
 
Published Friday, April 4, 2014 2:13 pm
by Herbert L. White

Andraya Williams’ restroom break is the most controversial use of public facilities in Charlotte since the 1960s.

PHOTO/HERBERT L. WHITE
Central Piedmont Community College student Andreya Williams says the school discriminated against her for using a women's restroom last month. Williams, who is transgender and identifies as a woman, demands an apology from CPCC and changes in school policy regarding sexual orientation and identification.

The transgender Central Piedmont Community College student, who was tossed off campus on March 18 for using the women’s restroom, was the central figure in a protest for gay and transgender rights on Friday. About 70 people marched along Elizabeth Avenue to demand equal access to CPCC facilities and a change in school policies they say discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

“I’m very glad the turnout is the way it is,” Williams said. “Hopefully there’ll be an apology and they’ll change their policies and discipline the parties that need to be disciplined, so that way the school will be a safer place for everyone.”

Williams says she was stopped by school security after leaving the women’s restroom last month and ordered to produce identification. The officer, Williams claims, harassed and humiliated her before removing her from campus. 

CPCC officials, citing the federal laws which prevents the release of most student information and discussing individual student matters, hasn’t commented directly on the incident, but offered a statement supporting tolerance and diversity on its website:

Andreya Williams in her own words

“The college does not tolerate harassment of any kind,” the school maintains. “College personnel have been investigating the incident in question for several days, and the goal is to reach an amicable resolution with the student in the near future.”

The incident has drawn the attention of gay and lesbian activists who draw parallels with the civil rights demands of African Americans in the 1950s and ‘60s. Sarah Demarest, counsel for the Freedom Center for social Justice-LGBTQ Law Center in Charlotte, said CPCC’s actions violated Title VII and Title IX, federal laws that provides for equal facilities and access at taxpayer-funded colleges.

“Andraya is a survivor,” Demarest wrote in a statement. “Andraya has navigated the incident at CPCC with strength and grace; she has returned to school and is doing her best to earn the education to which she is entitled. We join Andraya in her belief that all students should be able to feel safe and supported on campus, navigate campus without fear of harassment and use facilities appropriate to their gender identity.”

Williams said she sent letters to CPCC officials demanding an apology and policy changes regarding sexual orientation.

“I have yet to receive an apology, but they did send me a link to their policies,” she said.

School officials maintain it broke no laws in dealing with Williams.

 “The college has examined its policies and procedures, and we are certain that they are in compliance with current laws,” CPCC officials wrote in a statement. “The college will work to ensure those policies are followed and clearly communicated.

“We intend to have on-going dialogue with local and state LGBT leaders, including the college’s own LGBT organization, as we continue to address this issue.”

Williams admitted she didn’t set out to become a cause célèbre, but circumstances dictated standing up for what she believes is right.

“Luckily I knew my rights and I knew what to do in this situation,” she said. “The more of our community that knows our rights, the better off we’ll end up being.”

 

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