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Transgender Directive Prompts School Boards to Take Action One Way or the Other

Transgender Directive Prompts School Boards to Take Action One Way or the Other

In the month following the Obama administration’s directive on the rights of transgendered students in schools, school boards’ reactions to the guidance vary.

The directive does not carry the weight of law, but it for the first time interprets how Title IX law protects gender identity. Though Title IX clearly protects students from sex-based discrimination, it was formerly up to interpretation whether or not this covers transgendered students, as well.

The guidance, issued by the Justice and Education Departments, has done away with case-by-case interpretation and instead mandates that each state protect students’ respective gender identity or suffer the consequence of losing federal funds.

The directive prompted immediate outrage from a handful of conservative-leaning states; 11 states are currently suing the federal government for overreach. As school boards throughout these states refuse to comply with the guidance and even consider losing millions in federal dollars over the matter, many districts are embracing the guidelines and crafting new policies.

So far, the districts that have chosen to defy the directive are loudly getting their opinions heard, but there are several schools that are successfully (and much more quietly) complying. Here are some notable cases of how different school boards are reacting to the directive this past month:

  • Pittsburg Public Schools Board Approves Districtwide Policy Protecting Transgender Students

The Pittsburg Public Schools Board has approved its first district-wide policy protecting the rights of transgender schools in its district.

The Transgender and Gender Expansive Students policy ensures that the district’s students can freely use the facilities that correspond to their gender identity. Students are also free to wear the clothing they are most comfortable in and are to be referred to by their preferred name on all documents but official legal forms.

The guidance asserts that parents are not be alerted of students’ gender identity unless the student gives permission to do so. If students are in need of support as they transition, the district recommends "that school officials should work closely with student and parents to ensure the transitioning student's health and well-being,” said

  • Utah's Largest School System Considers Drafting Budget Without Federal Funds in Order to Defy Directive

Utah’s largest school system is considering developing a budget without the $40 million in federal funding it receives in order to defy the transgender directive.

Although the Alpine School District Board failed to pass a measure that would create a backup budget without the federal funding it receives for its schools, the elected members agreed they would "continue to informally discuss how the district could fare without the 6.3 percent slice of its total revenue for the 2016-17 school year,” said The Salt Lake Tribune.

As the district tries to prepare for an anticipated growth of 5,000 students over just five years, several board members insisted that the board reconsider abandoning federal funds and instead work with the federal government to change the statute.

The board’s President John Burton has said in previous meetings that the board does not intend to draft a budget without federal funding and emphasized that the opinions of individual board members does not represent the whole.

  • Kansas Board of Education Votes to Allow Local Districts to Decide on Transgender Rights

The Kansas Board of Education has voted to allow local districts to decide how to deal with transgender rights in schools.

”We must continue to provide our schools the flexibility needed to work with their students, families and communities to effectively address the needs of the students they serve,” the board said in a statement.

This is direct defiance of the directive and the state’s education funding is being called into question as it struggles to bridge a funding gap between schools in rich and poor districts in the state.

  • North Carolina District Will No Longer Separate Boys & Girls

Even though North Carolina state law bans transgendered students from using the facilities they prefer, one of the state’s districts is making its own rules for transgender students to embrace gender identity.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ new transgender policy not only respects students’ gender identities, it also proposes that boys and girls are no longer separated during events or lines in order to respect transgendered students.

Though the state’s governor Pat McCrory has said the district is purposely breaking state law, CMS does not have any plans to reverse its policy.

"School leaders [have] received a training session on the guidelines...They heard about bathrooms, but also ways to give transgender students flexibility when it comes to single-gender classes, school ceremonies, yearbook photos, and some extra-curricular activities,” said 

  • Guam Department of Education Begins Plans to Comply

U.S. territories are also taking the transgender directive seriously. Guam’s Department of Education will begin discussing the federal guidance and how to apply it to its schools in upcoming board meetings.

“GDOE as an institution has been very aware of the diversity that we have within our school system, and that includes ethnic diversity, sexual identification and gender identification,” said Superintendent Jon Fernandez to KUAM News.

"He continued by saying the department has done its best 'to ensure that we’re welcoming and accommodating to the extent that it makes sense.”

It was be finalizing its new transgender policy to keep $25 million in federal funding.

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Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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