The Manchester Board of School Committee will take up a proposed policy on transgender students at its meeting on Monday, January 25, 2021. (Starts on page 26 of the agenda.) On a 4 to 1 vote, the policy was approved by the board’s Committee on Policy on January 12, 2021.
Voting in favor was Leslie Want (D-Ward 4), Peter Perich (D-Ward 8), Nicole Leaply (D-Ward 11), Jim O’Connell (D at-Large). Arthur Beaudry (D-Ward 9) was the lone vote against.
The policy, which despite being on committee agendas has not garnered any public attention, contains multiple hotly contested items. The policy proclaims its intent is “to create a safe learning environment for all students and to ensure that every student has equal access to all school programs and activities.” But it also prioritizes transgender students over their peers, saying: “In all cases, the goal is to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.” This is written in the “PURPOSE” section of the policy.
To execute on the purpose, the policy prevents school officials from informing parents about their child’s “transgender status” while at school unless permitted by the student. There is no age restriction on this prohibition.
School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure…when contacting the parent or guardian of a transgender or gender nonconforming student, school personnel should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent or guardian has specified otherwise.
Not only does the policy prohibit personnel from informing parents, it provides direction on how to do it.
Ironically, this policy comes after another item on the agenda regarding compliance with the state’s Right to Know Law.
The policy then proceeds to address “gender-segregated activities.”
To the extent possible, schools should reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by gender. In situations where students are segregated by gender, such as for health education classes, students should be included in the group that corresponds to their gender identity.”
Would not parents want to know if their students were “in the group that corresponds to their gender identity”?
When it comes to bathrooms, the policy is blunt.
Students SHALL have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school. Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided to access to a single stall restroom, but no student shall be required to use such a restroom.” (Emphases added.)
What this means, basically, is that if students who “identify with their gender assigned at birth” are uncomfortable with those in the same bathroom who don’t, the school has no recourse but to allow the gender non-conforming student to use whatever facility they see fit to use. This will be of particular concern to girls who won’t want boys in their bathroom, regardless of how they identify. It would seem that imposing this requirement violates the stated purpose of “creat(ing) a safe learning environment for all students and to ensure that every student has equal access to all school programs and activities.” Moreover, it remains a mystery how it satisfies the other stated goal “to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.” Forcing people to accept your presence in private places is unlikely to further this goal.
Locker rooms are next.
The use of locker rooms by transgender students SHALL be assessed on a case-by-case basis with the goals of maximizing the student’s social integration and equal opportunity to participate in physical education classes and sports, ensuring the student’s safety and comfort, and minimizing stigmatization of the student. In most cases, transgender students should have access to the locker room that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school. Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, should be provided with a reasonable alternative changing area such as the use of a private area (e.g., a nearby restroom stall with a door, an area separated by a curtain, a P.E. instructor’s office in the locker room, or a nearby health office restroom), or with a separate changing schedule (e.g., using the locker room that corresponds to their gender identity before or after other students). Any alternative arrangement should be provided in a way that protects the student’s ability to keep his or her transgender status confidential. In no case shall a transgender student be required to use a locker room that conflicts with the student’s gender identity.
The contradictions in this policy are staggering. It starts by saying that locker room access will be assessed on a case by case basis and ends by requiring their access to the locker room the student wants. As with the bathroom requirement, it doesn’t appear to matter what other students think. Their concerns over having members of the opposite sex in their showers and changing areas seem to be “assigned” to the “tough luck” category.
Locker rooms lead to sports, and sports are upended by this policy.
- Transgender and gender-nonconforming students shall be permitted t participate in physical education classes and intramural sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
- Transgender and gender-nonconforming students shall be permitted to participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
As the father of a young woman who was a very competitive three-sport high school athlete, I can only imagine the fallout of her losing a spot on a team or a competition because a biological boy was allowed to participate. As many high school athletes compete for athletic scholarships, it would seem that young women are in danger of losing more than just their next competition. This isn’t conjecture. Female athletes have lost major competitions to biological boys in Alaska and Connecticut, among other states. Expect there to be a legal challenge under Title IX, which requires schools to provide equal athletic opportunities for girls, at some point.
The inverse is also true. A biological girl on a boys’ team is likely to make the team less competitive. What if a biological girl is on a boys’ wrestling team? This has already happened, and boys have been unwilling to compete against someone who was obviously a girl.
In Texas, questions were raised over whether or not a girl taking testosterone to become a boy should have been allowed to compete against female wrestlers.
There’s also a concerning section addressing dress codes.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming students have the right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression. In general, schools may not adopt dress codes that restrict students’ clothing or appearance on the basis of gender.
If this is intended to prevent schools from saying something like “biological boys can’t wear dresses,” it needs to be reworded. The fact is that dress codes for boys are very different from girls, not that anybody actually follows them in this city. Dress codes for girls are meant to provide some level of modesty in dress. For boys, they’re pretty much intended to make sure their pants are fully on, and gang associated attire is prohibited.
Supporters of the policy will likely note that bathroom and locker room access will only be granted to those whose “gender identity (is) consistently asserted at school.” What does that mean, exactly? Who determines what constitutes “consistently asserted?” What liability comes with considering one “consistent” and someone else “not consistent.” Is there a standard against which such decisions may be made? What if a student is “questioning?” Should they be deprived of the ability to explore their feelings? This gets messy quickly. Even if it didn’t, access is still, at some point, mandated.
Attached to the agenda is a December 30, 2020 press release from the NH Civil Liberties Union, decrying how so few school districts had adopted the sample policy drafted by NH School Boards Association. It included the sample policy, which Manchester is on the verge of adopting.
For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its prohibition on informing parents of what would likely be considered concerning behavior in school, this policy should be defeated.
In 2018, Girard at Large contributor Ann Marie Banfield penned an article detailing how a policy like this led to the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Kindergarten.
In 2017, Girard at Large guest host Shannon McGinley interviewed Walt Heyer (pictured above), a male who deeply regretted that he underwent hormone therapy and surgery to become a woman. He went back. His story, which is hardly unique, is something every policymaker needs to consider before passing such policies.
Contact your school board members and let them know to vote NO on this policy!
Rich Girard | Girard at Large
Editor: The original was delicately modified over minor differences in style.