Last week, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told WRAL that he might pull his school resource officers from Wake County Public Schools if the system didn’t set a clear policy for transgender students. “I’m thinking about pulling my school resource officers out of those schools,” he told reporter Sloane Heffernan. “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.” His beef, it seems, is that there’s no consistent policy across the system. He mentioned one school in which the principal allowed a transgender girl to use the girls’ bathroom: “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 told WRAL.What that has to do with the SROs isn’t entirely clear. 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.
- Illustration by Steve Oliva