Saddleback College continues to investigate submitted transgender student complaints

South Orange County Community College District complaint policy will preserve gender identity or expression as part of its complaint procedure

National Public Radio’s Cory Turner and Anya Kamenez reported that the United States Department of Education would discontinue its policy in investigating transgender students’ access and complaints with regard to gendered restroom facilities on Feb. 12. The U.S. Department of Education’s “Office of Civil Rights Instructions to the Field re: Complaints Involving Transgender Students,” claims that President Nixon’s Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sexual discrimination but cannot be extended to include gender identity. South Orange County Community College District’s District Risk Manager, Toni Brandy confirmed that the district’s sexual harassment complaint and investigation policy includes gender identity or expression.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the California School Success & Opportunity Act or Assembly Bill No.1266 which reinforced that public schools did not possess the ability to discriminate against students on the basis of gender, gender identity and gender expression on Aug. 12, 2013. Furthermore, it allowed students to participate in athletic teams and use restroom facilities that corresponded with their gender identity regardless of their gender at birth or on file.

Single-unit restroom labelled as gender-neutral in the Learning Resource Center. (Ashley Hern)

Single-unit restroom labelled as gender-neutral in the Learning Resource Center. (Ashley Hern)

The Saddleback College 2016 Annual Safety & Security Report describes that one hate crime has been reported since 2014. The crime involved a fine arts flyer being vandalized with a Star of David and Soviet symbolism in 2014. The report concludes that no other hate crimes have taken place which regard gender reported since 2014.

“We haven’t received any complaints in district services,” said Jennie McCue, SOCCD’s directory of public relations and marketing.

Saddleback College currently has two gender-neutral restrooms labeled in its campus map located in the Learning Resource Center’s first floor and in the Fine Arts Complex. Jeanne Harris-Caldwell, the director of the student health center, stated that the student health center contains two restrooms facilities which include gender-neutral labeling and contain washing or bathing amenities for students.

The college asserts that any new facilities on campus will include the inclusion of gender-neutral restrooms. The new sports complex’s floor plan in the program validation and schematic design show two restrooms labeled as “G.N.R” for gender-neutral restroom equipment.


Single-unit restroom labelled as gender-neutral in the Learning Resource Center. (Ashley Hern)

Single-unit restroom labelled as gender-neutral in the Learning Resource Center. (Ashley Hern)

However, in an email to previous Saddleback President Gregory Anderson, the Saddleback Equity and Diversity Committee explained the single-use bathroom facilities for math, science and engineering faculty lack of compliance with California’s Assembly Bill No. 1732 or the Equal Restroom Access Act. The law asserts that single-use restroom within public agencies, including businesses and government buildings, must adhere and display labels for all genders starting March 1, 2017.

Some single-use bathrooms on campus continue to be designated as male and female,” said Carmenmara Hernandez Bravo and Ray Zimmerman, co-chairs of the Equity and Diversity Committee. “Specifically, the faculty in Math, Science and Engineering recently voted to maintain gendered single use bathrooms for themselves rather than convert them into gender neutral bathrooms accessible to students.”

It remains uncertain whether the college will follow up with its compliance with the Equal Restroom Access Act after Anderson’s sudden resignation on April 10. The Equity and Diversity Committee plan to address and solicit solutions with Acting President Jame Buysse promptly.

According to the SOCCCD Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedure, the district recommends that complaints be filed orally or in writing within 30 days of the occurrence. The district has appointed officers who receive and organize investigations based on complaints. However, these appointed officers may not be the individuals examining the situation if a conflict of interest exists.

“South Orange County Community College District takes every student, staff, public complaint/issue very seriously,” said Brady. “Depending on the content/context behind the complaint, there are two different responses. For general complaints, students are encouraged to surface these complaints to managers in charge of said areas. If the nature of the complaint is gender-based discrimination (Title IX) in nature, there is an SOCCCD brochure that describes our District process.”

Harassment complaints can be resolved through informal or formal resolution. Informal resolution can be pursued during situations that involve misunderstandings and does not include an investigation, instead it serves as a mediation process. Whereas, formal resolution involves an investigation and interviewing process with both the complainant and alleged harasser.

Unlawful discrimination complaints legislature in California requires the SOCCCD to prepare a report and conclude the investigation within 90 days after receipt of a formal complaint. Complainants have the ability to appeal within 15 days of administrative determination with the district’s Board of Trustees.

The Saddleback College 2016 Annual Safety & Security Report also recommends filing a crime report. Crime reports have the ability for complainants to remain confidential but require that the college campus reports the incident in its annual disclosure of crime statistics. Saddleback College Police employees or Student Health Center counselors possess the ability to file crime reports.