Bellevue Public Schools introduces transgender regulation

Bellevue+Public+Schools+introduces+transgender+regulation

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Graphic by Em Brandon, Photo by Eva Houchin
Graphic by Em Brandon, Photo by Eva Houchin

Superintendent Frank Harwood presented an administrative regulation on October 5 to the school board regarding transgender students. It was developed with the district’s attorney.

The regulation states that it is intended to “clarify existing laws, rules and policies, and to guide how best to support the needs of the district’s transgender students and their families.”

It continues by stating that it does not anticipate every scenario, but that each instance will be handled on a “case-by-case basis to determine how best to support the student within the parameters of this administrative rule.”

Due to confusion about the regulation, the district has posted clarification and additional information on the district website.

The clarification explained that “[t]ransgender is a protected group by the Office of Civil Rights. The regulation is used as a guide to help us support a transgender student while understanding the needs of all students in the school.”

The additional information post said, “[i]t has been stated that all a boy has to do is dress up as a girl and he can use the girls’ restroom. This is not true; in fact this regulation means that no accommodation for the use of a different restroom can be given without a plan in place.”

GSA advisor Judy Petrow believes that the regulation was important.

“With the number of transgender students we have in the school, and the fact that a lot of students in elementary and middle school are coming out as trans where administrators may not have experience with this stuff, I think it’s important to have a policy to be uniform, and also be aware of legal issues,” Petrow said.

Yet it’s more than just the legal standpoint for her.

“Everybody needs to feel like there’s somebody or a place where people believe who they are and believe in them as people,” Petrow said. “I think this policy formalizes this message to transgender students.”

Multiple students believe this change is needed.

“It’s so important for trans youth to feel safe,” senior Andy DiBernardo said. “As a trans kid, needing to pee feels like I’m headed to death row. It’s embarrassing and confusing, part of me feels out of place regardless of which bathroom I use.”

Junior Kennie Pelt sees this regulation as a way to make positive changes in the district.

“Before the civil rights movement we didn’t think it was okay to share the bathroom with someone of a different color but we got used to it right after,” Pelt said. “Once a change is made, we should keep on going instead of waiting. We can’t keep waiting. If we make these changes now, later on in life this will seem normal.”

Other students agree that the Bellevue Public School district is working to keep up with the times.

“Whether people like it or not, times are changing,” senior Alec Stroud said. “This district still has a lot to do to keep up with how it’s going.”

Some students are worried about the safety of transgender kids regardless of the regulations.

“I think the faculty needs to be cautious with it,” senior Kayleigh Burley said. “They need to be aware of transgender students that have transitioned and are using the bathroom they identify with and look out for those students because they’re going to have a rough time.”

There are students that are concerned for other reasons.

“I think it would be ridiculous to assume that no one will be uncomfortable with this,” senior Tyler Araujo said. “I for one know that if I was in the bathroom and I saw a girl walk in, I would be more than a little upset.”

Students who aren’t familiar with their transgender peers might be caught off guard.

“I think, honestly, a lot of students aren’t going to be okay with it,” junior William Weekly said. “They’re not seeing the transgender students how the transgender students are seeing themselves. They’re going to see boys in the girls locker room and girls in the boys locker room.”

However, being familiar won’t make some students comfortable.

“I understand if people are going to identify themselves in that way but there has to be a limit to it, especially in the school setting,” Weekly said.

Araujo is also concerned that catering to a minority of students minimizes the rights and feelings of the majority.

“If it’s going into effect, it’s going into effect,” Araujo said. “There’s not a whole lot that the faculty can do, to be honest. I would like to see them still respecting the attitudes of people like me who are 110% not down with it.”

There are no students currently using a locker room that doesn’t coincide with their biological sex.

“We’ve been accommodating to everybody so far, so we’ll take [students using locker rooms not of their biological gender] when it happens,” gym teacher and coach Moraski said.

The faculty is planning on respecting the rights of all students.

“We’re going to protect everyone’s rights and do our best to make sure everyone is accommodated the best way possible,” activities director John Mauro said.

 

Superintendent Frank Harwood will address the policy at the Nov. 9 school board meeting. The meeting begins at 6:30 P.M. at the Welcome Center.

Em Brandon
Editor-in-Chief