As HB2 debate rages, Durham schools discuss approach

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Board members discuss the best approach in light of the legal fights.

Figuring out whether to listen to the federal government or state government, that's the dilemma school systems in North Carolina are facing with HB2.

The new law has sparked several back-and-forth lawsuits between the federal and state government. Most recently, President Obama's administration directed schools to accommodate transgender students. On Friday, the administration told schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

READ THE LETTER FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS (.PDF)
READ THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION'S REPORT (.PDF)

This affects all public schools that take advantage of federal funding. For North Carolina, this directive contradicts House Bill 2.

"Am I wrong, because I'm not a lawyer help me out, in thinking that federal law trumps state law?" asked Durham Public Schools board member Natalie Beyer to the school system attorneys at the board's monthly meeting Thursday night.

RELATED: 11 STATES SUE OVER FEDERAL TRANSGENDER DIRECTIVE

Attorney Ken Soo said their approach right now is to "deal with this in a way that works for students."

"Working with student on an individual basis, each case individually to best meet the needs of the student," Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said.

Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here

Since HB2 became law, Durham Public School's Board of Education has said it is not in favor of the law and wants it repealed. Members say the bill passed and since the federal government has been fighting with the state government, they've been fielding questions and concerns from parents and from transgender students.

So for now, their solution is simple. They're going to keep doing what they say they have been doing, creating inclusive and safe environments for all students in the district.

Board members also asked their attorneys about the minimum wage part of the bill. It was clarified to them that they could still set wages for employees but that they'll have to revisit their policies on contract workers. Under HB2, they are not allowed to pay contract workers any more than the set minimum wage.

HB2 was designed to block a Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance, part of which allowed transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. The state law requires people to use the restroom according to their biological sex listed on their birth certificate in government buildings, schools, and universities.

The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

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