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Community at odds over transgender transition at high school

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BATESVILLE, MS -

(WMC-TV) – Controversy is brewing in North Mississippi over a student's decision to come out as a transgender.

"It was a big topic in the classrooms, everywhere, everyone has their own opinion," South Panola High student, Jabrea Joiner said.

Monday, South Panola High School students were buzzing about a transgender classmate who began what the ACLU called a 'transition'.

"The first step in that is really to start dressing according to your gender and today was about going to school and being able to be the person that she is," Mississippi ACLU Legal Director, Bear Atwood said.

Because the student is a minor, we've agreed to only identify her as Leah. On the first day of the transition, some classmates still referred to Leah as 'HE.'

"He's like any other student at South Panola, he minds his business, he's not hurting anyone, he's only wanting to be himself," Joiner said.

Some parents had more concerns than the students.

"You a man you supposed to stay a man, you a woman, you supposed to stay a woman, and that's my opinion that's it," Batesville resident Kenneth Smith said.

"It causes attention to yourself so you've got a bunch of students who have never been around this," Batesville resident Alishia Smith added.

The ACLU is working with Leah's family and the school district to ensure she has a safe and inclusive environment at school.

Monday, many of the students showed their support by wearing green and pink, a request Leah made on Facebook to friends.

"I know there was a lot going on, people had a lot to say in the classroom, but I just feel like it's not my position to judge anyone," Joiner said.

The interim superintendent was unavailable Monday, but it is district policy not to comment about specific students.

Action News 5 has been told that some parents plan to voice concerns at the next school board meeting in March.

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