Cape Elizabeth schools embrace rights of transgender students

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The School Board has adopted a policy to address the needs of transgender students.

The board on Nov. 8 unanimously approved a policy that was introduced with a first reading on Oct. 11.

The policy, which was drafted by attorneys at Portland-based Drummond Woodsum, seeks to create a safe learning environment for transgender students and help them to integrate educationally and socially into the public schools.

According to interim Superintendent Howard Colter, the policy is “identical or close to” the policy adopted by the Scarborough School Board in June.

Cape Elizabeth High School Principal Jeff Shedd said the school’s student government is pleased with the policy.

“(Student Body President) Kinnon McGrath … led a discussion of the students in the student government about this policy, and they were very enthusiastic about the School Board taking a position on this,” Shedd said.

Shedd said the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance also supports the policy, as do most of the students at CEHS.

“I would say (there’s) full support from the student body,” he said.

Colter said Cape Elizabeth has at least one transgender student, but there may be more.

The policy defines transgender, gender identity, gender expression, and other terms, and states that students will be called by the names and pronouns by which they identify. Additionally, the policy will allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms for their identified gender, and wear the gender-based clothing of their choice.

When it comes to participation in school sports, the School Board said local schools must comply with the Maine Principals’ Association Transgender Participation Policy, under which students are assessed on a case-by-case basis. For Cape Elizabeth intramural sports, though, transgender students can play on the team associated with their identified gender.

The policy states that students will be considered transgender if they “consistently assert” a gender that is different from the one they were assigned at birth.

“This involves more than a casual declaration of gender identity or expression, but it does not necessarily require a medical diagnosis,” the policy states.

The policy also discusses procedures for addressing the needs of transgender students, who can meet with their parents and school administrators or counselors to create a plan that will best meet a student’s needs.

Plans will include how to address a student’s privacy, should they not want to disclose to others that they are transgender. The plan will also include how to maintain records. The policy states that permanent records can’t be changed unless a student provides proof that they’ve legally changed their name or gender. 

The policy states that all school staff must comply with a transgender student’s plans so the student can be protected at school.

School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres thanked the policy committee for working on the task, and stressed the importance of having such guidelines in place.

“I think every policy we work on is important and the transgender policy is no different,” Scifres said. “It’s really important, sensitive work.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.