Area school districts seek to be more inclusive for transgender students

SNOHOMISH — There’s an effort under way to make schools more inclusive for transgender students.

The Snohomish School Board is pondering a new anti-discrimination policy that deals with issues, such as access to restrooms and locker rooms, sports participation, dress codes and official records.

A person who is transgender has an inner sense of gender identity that is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.

Assistant Superintendent Scott Peacock said rules are needed to deal with an increasing number of transgender students at elementary and secondary schools.

The board is expected to decide on the proposed policy at its meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Snohomish School District administration office, 1601 Ave. D.

Snohomish is not alone in facing the issue of how to accommodate transgender students in a nondiscriminatory way.

The Lake Stevens and Stanwood-Camano school districts are drawing up policies to bring to their school boards in November.

“We’re all working on it, trying to figure it out,” said Maurene Stanton, human resources director for Stanwood-Camano.

The Everett and Granite Falls school districts are also looking into implementing policies for transgender students. Everett spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said she expects to have one ready for the board to consider in 2016.

A number of other districts across Snohomish County, including Arlington, Darrington, Edmonds, Mukilteo, Marysville and Monroe, have already put policies in place for transgender students. The Washington State School Directors’ Association, in collaboration with the state superintendent’s office, in 2013 drafted a model for districts to follow.

Under Snohomish’s proposed policy, students would be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender they consistently identify with.

Locker room access is to be assessed on an individual basis with the goal of being as inclusive as possible, while ensuring student safety and comfort, Peacock said.

Any student — transgender or not — who wants privacy is to be provided use of an alternative restroom or changing area, such as one used by staff. However, no student should be required to use a certain restroom or locker room because they are transgender.

The proposed policy also dictates that students be allowed to participate in the physical education classes and sports that are consistent with their gender identities. They’ll also be permitted to dress in a way that corresponds with their preferred sex.

The district is required to maintain records with a student’s legal name and gender. Under the proposed policy, it will alter those records if a student provides documentation that shows their legal name or gender has been changed.

When the district is not legally required to report the name and sex assigned at birth, it is to use those that the student identifies with. Staff is directed to address students with the pronouns they prefer.

The proposed policy cautions educators and administrators to keep confidential any information that could reveal that a student is transgender, unless such a disclosure is legally required or they have permission to share. It makes clear that discrimination on the basis of gender expression is prohibited.

The policy is aimed at providing students with the equal access they are entitled to under the law and ensuring no one is discriminated against, Peacock said.

“The important thing we’re thinking about is that our schools are inviting and welcoming to all students,” he said.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports

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