Par­ents ex­press con­cerns over CCPS trans­gen­der pol­icy

Email states stu­dents al­lowed to use fa­cil­i­ties match­ing gen­der iden­tity

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

As the de­bate on trans­gen­der us­age of re­strooms rages na­tion­ally, sev­eral par­ents have ex­pressed con­cern about Charles County Pub­lic Schools’ al­low­ing stu­dents to use the fa­cil­i­ties match­ing their gen­der iden­tity.

Par­ents at­tended in sup­port of four par­ents who spoke out dur­ing the pub­lic com­ments por­tion of the May 23 school board bud­get work ses­sion re­gard­ing an email sent to CCPS fam­i­lies about fa­cil­i­ties

us­age by trans­gen­der stu­dents.

The email from Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill, dated May 19, 2016, was sent to in­form par­ents that un­less a trans­gen­der stu­dent prefers an­other op­tion, school prin­ci­pals will gen­er­ally ap­prove a re­quest to use the bath­room and locker room fa­cil­i­ties match­ing their gen­der iden­tity.

The email was sent in re­sponse to the na­tional dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing trans­gen­der re­stroom us­age, as well as the May 13 guid­ance from the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice and U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion re­gard­ing al­low­ing stu­dents to use the fa­cil­i­ties that cor­re­spond with his or her gen­der iden­tity.

Crista Fawls, a par­ent of four chil­dren in the school sys­tem, said the email raised red flags for her.

“I have con­cerns for my chil­dren’s pri­vacy. I don’t want them un­dress­ing in front of peo­ple born with the other sex,” Fawls said. “When you open up that door of the op­po­site sex in the bath­room, it opens up all doors.”

Fawls said she ini­tially did not see the email — ti­tled only “Stu­dent rights in­for­ma­tion” — and said many par­ents may have missed it.

“I don’t think they’ve thought through this pol­icy very well,” Fawls said.

Pa­tri­cia Vaira, di­rec­tor of stu­dent ser­vices, said that al­low­ing trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the bath­room that con­forms with their gen­der iden­tity on a case-by-case ba­sis has been the school sys­tem’s prac­tice since it adopted gen­der iden­tity into its nondis­crim­i­na­tion state­ment in 2014.

“We’ve been giv­ing this guid­ance and guide­lines from the state de­part­ment of ed­u­ca­tion for the past few years,” Vaira said. “It was al­ready our pol­icy that we do not dis­crim­i­nate against trans­gen­der stu­dents.”

Fawls said she was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned with the pos­si­bil­ity a stu­dent who was not trans­gen­der might still use the pol­icy to gain ac­cess to the bath­room of the op­po­site sex, par­tic­u­larly in re­gards to young girls.

Vaira said school sys­tem pro­ce­dure is for trans­gen­der stu­dents to meet with their prin­ci­pal to re­quest to use the fa­cil­i­ties re­lated with their gen­der iden­tity. The prin­ci­pal would then have a meet­ing with the stu­dent, par­ents, school coun­selors and pos­si­bly oth­ers be­fore grant­ing per­mis­sion.

“We look at all of the avail­able op­tions for the trans­gen­der stu­dent, as well as the gen­eral safety and com­fort of the gen­eral stu­dent pop­u­la­tion,” Vaira said.

Vaira said the pro­ce­dure would not al­low a stu­dent to use the re­stroom of the op­po­site bi­o­log­i­cal sex with­out per­mis­sion. “If some­one were to just de­clare that [they were trans­gen­der] and go in, they would be dis­ci­plined just like any other stu­dent who was in an area they shouldn’t be,” Vaira said.

Vaira said there were ap­prox­i­mately 15 to 20 trans­gen­der stu­dents in the school sys­tem at any time. CCPS had 26,307 stu­dents in the 2015-16 school year.

Dur­ing the May 23 board meet­ing, Hill said the school sys­tem risked los­ing fed­eral and pos­si­bly state fund­ing if it en­acted a pol­icy in op­po­si­tion to fed­eral guid­ance.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, there was a court case in the 4th Cir­cuit in Vir­ginia, which we are un­der, which has up­held the right of trans­gen­der stu­dents,” Hill said. “This is a dif­fi­cult is­sue for all of us; we’ve had par­ents have shared with us, stu­dents have shared with us, teach­ers have shared with us. What we are try­ing to do is to re­spect all stu­dents in a way that keeps ev­ery­one in­tact and com­fort­able, in our schools.”

Fawls said she would have pre­ferred CCPS to make a stand with par­ents who are un­com­fort­able with the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion guid­ance.

“I would like to see them stand up with the 11 states that said, ‘No, Mr. Pres­i­dent, you’ve over­stepped your bounds, you don’t get to do this,’” Fawls said.

Vaira said that any stu­dent, trans­gen­der or not, may re­quest to use sin­gle-oc­cu­pant fa­cil­i­ties at a school for le­git­i­mate rea­sons.

Fawls said she felt it was un­fair to re­quire her chil­dren to use the sin­gle-oc­cu­pant fa­cil­i­ties if they are un­com­fort­able pos­si­bly shar­ing a bath­room with trans­gen­der stu­dents, and that her sons’ high school only has one sin­gle-use fa­cil­ity in the nurse’s of­fice.

“What about the ma­jor­ity of the kids that iden­tify as the gen­der they were born with? What about her feel­ings? Why does the mi­nor­ity get to de­cide, while the ma­jor­ity just has to ac­cept it?” Fawls said.

Fawls said her sons would pre­fer to share a bath­room with a trans­gen­der fe­male stu­dent than with one who was born fe­male.

“If they’ve got boy parts, I don’t think they would have a prob­lem. I think they would be more com­fort­able with that than with shar­ing a bath­room with some­one who has girl parts,” Fawls said.

Vaira said CCPS strives to pro­vide a safe, sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment for all stu­dents.

“We don’t want to dis­crim­i­nate against any­one, and we want to fo­cus on the safety and com­fort of all stu­dents,” Vaira said.

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