Gateway: News

School board considers policy that accommodates transgender students

A new policy considered by the Peninsula School Board will put in place a district-wide set of procedures to accommodate transgender students.

The board heard the first reading of the policy at its Thursday night meeting.

Transgender is a term that is applied to those whose gender identity or expression is different from their sex assigned at birth.

The policy is adapted from similar policies put in place by the Washington State of School Directors’ Association. Kathy Weymiller, who works on the district’s diversity committee, presented the policy to the school board.

Weymiller said that a new inclusive policy for transgender students was created at the request of the risk management insurers. There are risks of civil rights complaints should the district not have policy in place, according to the risk manager.

State law prohibits discrimination based on identity and gender expression.

Transgender students are enrolled at all three levels of district schools: elementary, middle and high school.

“Up until now there hasn’t been a lot of guidelines for our principals and staff to use,” Weymiller said. “The only thing that is consistent is that everyone is different. It’s been case by case… this is health related (with) privacy concerns and FERPA concerns, so we’re not advertising who is transgender.”

The policy will return to the board under the consent agenda at the board’s Sept. 10 meeting.

“Personally, I think we need this … I would be nervous to not have this,” board member Wendy Wojtanowicz said of the policy.

Board member Rand Wilhelmsen said the policy would help staff at all the schools be consistent when dealing with transgender students.

The policy would apply district-wide and help staff accommodate students who are transitioning. It also provides training for staff.

Board member David Olson expressed concerns about having an isolated policy for transgender students, saying the several page procedures could be singling out students and put them at risk for bullying.

Board president Matt Wilkinson disagreed, saying he felt the board should follow WSSDA’s lead.

“Our commission is to teach and education and if having a policy by itself is required … then that is what (we do),” Wilkinson said.

The policy says that students will not be forced to use bathrooms and locker rooms that conflict with their gender identity.

Locker rooms, according to the policy, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be accommodated by the use of a private area or a separate changing schedule.

In all, the policy puts procedures in place regarding official records, health and education information, communication, sports and physical education, dress codes and other school activities.

The board will next meet at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the district office, 14015 62nd Ave. NW, Gig Harbor.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155