Scarborough School Board to consider wide-ranging policy for transgender students

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SCARBOROUGH — The School Board on Thursday night will consider guidelines for accommodating transgender students.

The proposed policy, drafted by the Policy Committee of Chairwoman Donna Beeley and board members Kate Miles and Kelly Murphy, extends beyond the use of bathrooms.

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.

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 proposal, a student would “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 would be “expected to be sensitive to” and 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.

Once a tailored plan has been developed by the school and a student’s parents, the transgender student “should be permitted to use the restrooms assigned to the gender which the student consistently asserts at school,” according to the proposed policy.

The same guidelines would apply to dress codes, locker rooms and any other facilities or activities separated by gender. For participants in school-related athletic teams, the policy refers to the Maine Principal’s Association Transgender Participation Policy.

At the same time, “school staff should be sensitive to the fact that transgender and transitioning students may be at higher risk for being bullied or harassed,” according to the proposed policy.

The key question that the board will have to discuss at the June 2 meeting, Beeley said Tuesday afternoon, is whether the policy is “the right thing for (all) kids? Does it support all students if we were to do this?”

“We certainly have policies that support … other students and (their) individual concerns,” Beeley said. Even if the board doesn’t support the policy at the first reading, it’s necessary to determine whether such a policy is “appropriate,” she added.

The district now has no explicit policy related to transgender students, Beeley said. “We have other policies that would be related to it, but not a specific one for trans students.”

Even if the board decides not to adopt a policy that explicitly addresses transgender students, “it certainly makes sense that we at least take a look at it and give it some consideration,” she said.

Thursday’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in Town Council Chambers.

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

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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.