Cape Elizabeth schools near rights policy for transgender students

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

The board had a first reading of the policy Oct. 11, and is expected to adopt it on Nov. 8. According to interim Superintendent Howard Colter, the policy is “identical or close to” the policy adopted by the Scarborough School Board in June.

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 schools.

“It deals with legally what we need to be doing and ethically what we need to be doing,” School Board member Barbara Powers said.

Colter said Cape Elizabeth has at least one transgender student, but there may be more. He said it’s a good idea to have a policy like this is place and that the state Department of Education advises adoption. 

Having a policy for transgender students is “in step with the law and with common sense,” Colter said.

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 to wear the associated clothing.

When it comes to 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 transgender students’ needs. Transgender students and their parents can meet with school administrators or guidance counselors to create a plan that will best meet the student’s needs.

Plans will include how to address a student’s privacy, should they wish to not 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 transgender students’ plans so the student can be protected at school.

“School staff should be sensitive to the fact that transgender and transitioning students may be at higher risk for being bullied or harassed,” the policy states.

School staff and administrators will receive training on the new policy and how to best address the needs of transgender students.

Colter said safety and respect are the biggest issues being addressed.

“I think the larger issue is about students feeling when they’re here at school that they’re safe, that they’re treated equally and fairly, and those can be complicated in certain communities more so than others, but I don’t expect this to be a major challenge for us,” he said.

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.