Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison has put school officials on notice after a recent incident regarding a transgender student’s right to access public accommodations. Harrison said that his officers are in a bad place since there is no clear policies in place district wide.
At first glance this would seem innocent, a law enforcement officer asking for clarification. But this bears further consideration in light of Harrison’s recent comparison likening infectious diseases to transgender rights.
According to Harrison, a transgender student who was born a boy was seen coming out of the girl’s locker room at West Millbrook Middle School. Harrison said the principal was OK with it.
“She had allowed this person, male that is transgender, going to be a female, to go in there as long as he did not take off his underwear,” Harrison said.
“I’m thinking about pulling my school resource officers out of those schools,” he said. “If we can’t have a better relationship, if they can’t work with us, I don’t know how we can work with them.”
Harrison says that he then contacted ‘a hundred parents’ asking them if they knew what had transpired. This is obviously outside of the realm of law enforcement. And if emails and other correspondence show that Harrison contacted those parents and relayed the events in a negative light Harrison could be guilty of conducting political activism while on duty.
But he angerly says this isn’t about politics.
Indy week reported that Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is very mad at them. .
On Monday morning the INDY sent Wake County a public records request asking for two things: first, Harrison’s communications over the past month that mentioned “school resource officers,” “transgender,” or “HB 2,” in order to see how this issue arose within the sheriff’s office; and second, his emails with the governor’s office over the past three months, because we got a tip that he may be a witness for the state in the HB 2 trial scheduled for next year.
Harrison was not amused.
Early Monday afternoon, a furious Harrison called us and demanded to know “what HB 2 has to do with anything.” He also wanted to know why we were asking about Governor McCrory, because, in his eyes, “This has nothing to do with politics. This is between Sheriff Donnie Harrison and the Wake County Public Schools.”
Over the course of the four-minute conversation, Harrison repeatedly said that his comments and his threat to pull SROs out of the Wake County Schools had nothing to do with HB 2, though the law specifically stated that students must use the bathroom and dressing rooms associated with the sex on their birth certificate. (The Obama administration has said that the law, for this reason, is a violation of Title IX, and in August a federal judge issued a partial preliminary injunction of the bathroom provision.)
Harrison told us that it’s “people like you who are what’s wrong with this country” and said we were trying to “make [the country] into something that it isn’t. That’s what’s wrong with you guys. It’s people like you who try to spin this stuff.”
Worth noting: before this story, we hadn’t written one word about Harrison’s transgender comments; we merely asked for records.
In the past, Harrison hasn’t shied away from politics: he endorsed McCrory’s 2016 campaign on September 16, and State Board of Elections records show that he’s donated more than $2,000 in contributions and in-kind donations to McCrory during the governor’s three runs. And, like McCrory, he doesn’t necessarily have the most evolved take on trans issues.
“Let me ask you this,” he told us. “If you had a daughter in school and there was a transgender [sic] dressing in the bathroom, wouldn’t you want to know?” No, we wouldn’t care, we responded. “Well, we don’t see eye to eye on that,” he snapped.
He did confirm that he would testify if the state asked. And at the end of our conversation, he also confirmed that his office would fulfill our public records request—because, he yelled (like, seriously, yelled), “there’s nothing there!”
As of press time, the INDY had not yet received those records.