NC School Official: My Vote For Mace Wasn’t Meant To ‘Disrespect’ Trans Students

The local school board member who cited the possibility that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” could be overturned when voting to lift a ban on high schoolers carrying pepper spray now says he regrets his comments.

Chuck Hughes, a member of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, told TPM on Wednesday that his comments were aimed at “the ‘straight’ perverts within the community,” not at LGBT students.

“I never intended to slur, disrespect or deprive the GLBT [sic] students of the rights to which they are entitled. Nor did I suggest that GLBT students were problematic,” he wrote in an email to TPM. “It is the ‘straight’ perverts within the community that concern me, people who might well take advantage of our students, straight or GLBT, in and out of school, if the ‘experiment’ initiated by Charlotte should spread, as it well might if the state loses its legal challenge.”

“It was a whimsical, inappropriate comment that I regret,” Hughes added.

Hughes also said he felt the law, which mandates people use the public bathroom that corresponds to their birth sex, was uncalled for.

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“Other than the city forcing the change on private businesses to comply, I believe that the NCGA’s response to Charlotte’s recent ordnance [sic] was unnecessary,” he wrote.

During a board meeting about the issue in Monday, Hughes spoke in favor of allowing high school students to bring mace to school. The Salisbury Post quoted him as saying, “Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in.”

The board voted in favor of allowing high school students to carry pepper spray in school starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

Hughes noted in his email to TPM that the school board did not address the issue because of the anti-LGBT law, known as HB2, but rather during a “routine update” to policies.

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education plans to discuss the issue again during a May 23 meeting and address new concerns raised by members of the community about allowing pepper spray in school.

Hughes also told Buzzfeed News on Wednesday that he planned to vote against allowing students to carry pepper spray in that upcoming meeting.

“We’re a strong board and we’re going to reevaluate this and maybe change it,” he told Buzzfeed. “I personally will vote to put pepper spray back into the prohibited items list along with razor blades, guns, knives, and other items that are not okay to take on school campuses.”

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