Parents question suspensions of students at Hockinson Middle School

Parents in the Hockinson School District express concern over the handling of a bathroom incident involving middle school students discussing their discomfort with a transgender student coming into their bathroom, highlighting alleged favoritism towards a protected and the need for fair treatment of all students.
Parents in the Hockinson School District express concern over the handling of a bathroom incident involving middle school students discussing their discomfort with a transgender student coming into their bathroom, highlighting alleged favoritism towards a protected class and the need for fair treatment of all students. File photo

The crimes of these male students appear to be discussing, while near a transgender student, their discomfort with the opposite sex coming into their bathroom

Leah Anaya
For Clark County Today

While activists claim that “Pride” month is about equality for the LBGTQ community, several parents in the Hockinson School District (HSD) say that “equality” has been tossed out the window there in favor of pedestalizing the same group of people. While many stories have been brought to the attention of Clark County Today, including a personal experience from this reporter, the most egregious recent account involves three Hockinson Middle School students who were suspended in the last days of school. The crimes of these male students appear to be discussing, while near a transgender student, their discomfort with the opposite sex coming into their bathroom.

Sanja Woehlert said that her seventh-grade son is one of those who were suspended and is unclear exactly what policy he violated. Further, Woehlert said the school took two full days to inform her of the situation. According to Woehlert, her son and a few other boys went up to a transgender student who identifies as he/they and asked if the student is allowed to use the boys bathroom. The student said yes, and the boys walked away. The boys discussed the situation further, then walked back towards where the transgender student was while still talking about the bathroom situation. The boys asked questions such as “Are you a transgender?” and made comments like, “I think it’s weird to have someone like you in the bathroom with me,” and “It’s kinda weird to have a girl in the boys bathroom.”

The incident was witnessed by a staff member, who Woehlert says told her that her son did not speak to the transgender student at any point. Nevertheless, her son was suspended.

“I was basically told that he’s suspended because my son said she (they) was ‘a transgender’ and not ‘transgender,’” Woehlert said. “We are all here to learn – if a student doesn’t know how to address or deal with a transgender situation, why are they being punished for it? This is a school – students are there to learn.”

Woehlert also said that one of the boys (not her son) went to apologize to the transgender student once staff talked to him. The student responded, “Suck my [expletive].” The transgender student was not punished, and the staff told the student who reported it that it wasn’t as bad as what the student had asked the student (as in if she was “a transgender”).

“They say they want to protect students, but they’re protecting only a small group of them rather than all students,” Woehlert told Clark County Today. “[Superintendent Steve] Marshall said that it’s a state funded school, so he has to follow the law and the law states that transgenders are a protected group. And because they’re a ‘protected group,’ he said ‘someone has to get punished.’ So the rest of the students don’t have the same protection I guess.”

Woehlert continued, “This is literally being pushed into our faces, so why are kids getting in trouble for talking about it?”

The incident occurred on Monday, June 12. Woehlert’s son was allowed to stay at school Monday and go to school Tuesday and part of Wednesday, and the school called her on Wednesday around lunchtime to inform her of the incident and tell her that her son was suspended from school for the day on Thursday.

When Woehlert called the school to speak with Principal Meredith Gannon and appeal the suspension, she was told by Middle School Associate Principal Caleb Millay that Gannon was not available. So, Woehlert went to the school to meet with her in person. “When he questioned my son on Tuesday about what happened, Caleb asked my son if he remembered what he said during the interaction,” Woehlert said. “My son was upset, and he told Caleb that he knew he said something but didn’t know what it was.

“Caleb said to my son, ‘I’ll tell you what you said. You said, If I ever see you in my bathroom, I’ll kick your ass. That’s what you said.’ Every other kid that was there said my son did not say that, but Caleb put those words in his mouth.

“Then when another mom whose son was involved went to talk to Caleb, she said that my son said he didn’t say that. Caleb called my son a liar! To another parent and student, Caleb called my son a liar. I don’t want Caleb talking to me or my son after that. I’m waiting for the video so I can watch and hear for myself.”

Woehlert has sent in a public records request for the video of the incident. Superintendent Marshall confirmed to her via email that the request is being fulfilled. Marshall said in an email to Woehlert that he would “follow up with Mr. Millay” regarding the comments mentioned above, and that he will attempt to “investigate and learn more” on the matter.

Another mom, Heather Richardson also spoke with Clark County Today. Richardson said that her son, also a seventh grader, was involved in the incident as well. She confirmed Woehlert’s account, but said she was informed of the incident on Tuesday rather than Wednesday. “For whatever reason,” she said, “my son wasn’t suspended. He didn’t do anything differently, but he wasn’t suspended. I’ve heard of so many negative run-ins with this same girl; she’s been aggressive towards boys, shoving them, shoving desks, hurting them. But she (they) never gets disciplined, as far as I know or as far as any of the other parents of kids she’s bullied have been told.”

Richardson said that Marshall told her that her son wasn’t the “aggressor” and was just standing there during the interaction. “He said that all the boys just asked questions,” Richardson said, “So I said ok, they asked questions. Then what’s the issue? And he didn’t have a good answer. They pulled my son out of class into a room with the door shut for ‘questioning,’ and he had to miss class for that?”

The parent of the transgender student involved in this incident, who asked not to identified, told Clark County Today that a Civil Rights complaint has been filed against the school district as a result of the incident.

This is not the first middle school incident involving her son that has troubled Richardson. “Two months ago,” she said, “there was a girl at the school who I guess is a ‘furry’ and identifies as a sloth and she told my son she was going to kill him. Caleb called me and … he said he ‘assessed the threat’ and didn’t think it was a real threat, so she didn’t get punished. She was just removed from my son’s classes … why is she getting special treatment and not getting suspended? Any other death threat would for sure be cause for at least suspension, so why is this girl allowed to get away with it?”

Several other parents had similar complaints of students identifying as LGBT getting special treatment as a “protected class.” Clark County Today is investigating these complaints.

At the time of this report, Superintendent Marshall has not responded to requests for comment.

“They want the kids to see all these colors,” Richardson said, “but they’re teaching in black and white. It’s not right.”

Both women mentioned above, along with multiple others, said they want the school to be forced to address the bathroom issue in a fair manner. The onus is currently on a child who feels uncomfortable with the opposite gender in the same bathroom to ask to be brought to a different restroom, usually a staff bathroom. The moms speaking with Clark County Today, however, argued that those students would then be labeled as “hateful” or “transphobic” if they did so. They say the school should make more of an effort to designate unisex bathrooms to alleviate the issue.

“As a school,” Woehlert said, “they’re failing. They should be protecting all kids. And they’re just not.”

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  1. Margaret

    Should the State of Washington be able to hide children from their parents?
    Read this letter to the editor on state law 5599 that would allow children from any state to be hidden from their parents or guardians, and the Referendum 101 petition that can stop this over-reaching law from going into effect. 200,000 petition Ref. 101 signatures must be turned in by July 15th to stop this law. Here are some excerpts
    According to the Family Policy Institute of Washington, “SB 5599, as signed by the Governor, allows shelters to assist children in obtaining abortions, puberty blockers, gender ‘reassignment’ surgeries, or any other health services prescribed by a doctor to treat ‘dysphoria,’ without contacting police, CPS, or the child’s parents.”
    “The bill report states that a shelter can be classified as ‘any person, unlicensed youth shelter, or runaway and homeless youth program.’ This means a child could seek shelter at any stranger’s house and that person would not need to alert police that they were harboring a runaway child.”
    For information, and Referendum 101 petitions see

  2. David Roberts

    WOW…..Not much more that I can say. There is a REAL problem with School Administrators and how that handle reported problems and issues.

  3. Roni

    I hear so many people saying this isn’t an issue in our smaller communities. The only way to protect our kids from it is to take them out of the schools. I would never allow my children to be bullied, especially considering the bullies in this case are the “protected” ones. It’s just sad.

  4. Marlene Cole

    Obviously, the only way to protect all children’s privacy is to tear out “Girls “ & “Boys “ bathrooms, that have multiple stalls or open toilets & urinals, and rebuild individual (unisex) bathrooms that can be locked. Similar to hospitals, clinics, etc. Of course, this should be paid with school funds NOT NEW TAXATIONS, since the school can’t seem to protect all children instead of the few.

    If a kiddo feels uncomfortable with a biological boy openly using a biological girl’s bathroom ( or reversed genders), as most humans would, then they are supposed to find a Staff’s bathroom, which I imagine are single bathrooms, and use theirs REALLY?! What kid is going to do that, if they readily have to use the restroom… where’s common sense gone? Even the outhouses were private.

    I, for one, agree with Hockinson parents being alarmed and angered over Hockinson’s decision to suspend youngsters for an open discussion about the Trans/bathroom issue. Behind the scenes, EVERYBODY discusses it, do they not? Raise your hands…


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