Scarborough board enacts policy affirming rights of transgender students

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SCARBOROUGH — A policy addressing the rights and needs of transgender students was unanimously adopted by the Board of Education last week.

The wide-ranging policy takes effect immediately. It builds on pre-existing guidelines established after a precedent-setting, 5-1 decision of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2014 – the first of its kind in the country – that granted transgender students the right to use the school bathroom that matches their preferred gender, rather than their biological gender.

The policy addresses the need to create an environment that is “safe and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying” for transgender students, according to the language. It includes definitions of key terms, such as gender identity and gender expression, as well as guidance on specific issues like privacy and how to correctly use the names and pronouns of transgender students. It would apply to dress codes, bathrooms, locker rooms and any other facilities or activities separated by gender.

Board members earlier this month noted that there have been no reports in Scarborough of conflict between transgender students and staff, or around bathroom use. But with an increase of court cases around similar situations across the country, many districts are becoming proactive.

Chairwoman Donna Beeley, following the board’s adoption of the policy June 16, said, “We feel very proud. … I’m not sure how many other towns have decided to create a policy, (but) sooner or later, they’re going to have to do that. … We feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s really for the safety of all our students.”

The new policy includes definitions of key terms, such as gender identity and gender expression, as well as guidance on specific issues like privacy and how to correctly use the names and pronouns of transgender students.

One’s gender identity, according to the policy, is a person’s “deeply held sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the gender assigned at birth.”

Under the formal policy, a student can “be considered transgender if, at school, he/she consistently asserts a gender identity or expression different from the gender assigned at birth. This involves more than a casual declaration of gender identity or expression, but it does not necessarily require a medical diagnosis.”

Staff and teachers are now formally required and “expected to be sensitive to” accommodate transgender students in a variety of ways; for example, by using the preferred name and pronoun when referring to a student, even if they don’t correspond to the “gender assigned at birth.”

The policy also includes directives for parents of transgender students, which encourages meeting with a guidance counselor or other relevant school staff so educators can develop a plan.

Over the last month, each time the board has vetted the proposal, no members of the public have requested to comment on it; Beeley said she takes that as a good sign from the community.

“Maybe we live in a town that is very understanding of individual needs and of the importance of the school system providing safety for everyone,” she said. It speaks well of the community that it “didn’t become an issue.”  

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • Chew H Bird

    I wonder how many kids will use this policy in a manner that is not appropriate. Curiosity and hormones are often a large factor in youthful decisions… While I am all for efforts to respect everyone, I clearly remember my peers (and myself) during my school years and I see a huge potential for abuse with this type of policy.

    • McKinleyME

      They can’t just show up at school one day, claim to be transgender, and go into the opposite gender restroom. They have to be able to prove it, which would involve administrators and counselors having meetings with the parents and whatnot. I don’t see any potential for abuse here.

      • Skylar P

        Yeah… I had to prove it…. … They wouldn’t let me use either locker room… and I was actually threatened to be suspended if I used either. So yes there was an issue for it.

  • Mainer1

    I think the town should enact a special tax on all hardworking taxpayers that would go into a fund to help transgenders have operations!

  • Real cool guy

    This is “affirming rights” of others? No, this is just a manipulative language war to prevent homosexual and transgenders from demanding their own facilities.

    The financial burden associated with new construction would dig too deep into pensions and other benefits of local, state and federal employees, Best to get out ahead of it and convince our neighbors they are being victimized and discriminated against.

    Imagine this…. your local “leaders” are telling you that you don’t rate a private bathroom if you desire so!? How many school “officials” have separate bathrooms?

    So we have male/boy – female/girl and faculty bathrooms? Is that correct? How does faculty rate a private throne?

    If you search on craigslist under rooms for rent you will see legal discrimination against men running rampant! In the privacy of your own home anyone can claim they are uncomfortable (females and their special treatment?) thanks to a shared (living space bathroom clause?). Forget that you don’t actually share the bathroom at the same time like in a public space!

    Any do good liberals feel like standing up for men? Nope….thought not.