After months of contentious debate and with emotional testimony from the public in front of standing-room-only crowds, the Gardner-Edgerton Board of Education approved sweeping new regulations governing its transgender population.
After renaming a set of guidelines as “policy” to make them more permanent, the board voted 5-2 to enact them.
Among its controversial provisions, the one getting the most attention among the public and in the media deals with accessibility:
“Students will only use the restroom or locker room that conforms with the student’s sex at birth or use any unisex facilities available to students. The usage of any restroom, locker room or changing room that does not conform to the student’s sex at birth will not be permitted.”
The district will either renovate several existing restrooms or build new ones to eventually offer eight unisex facilities in various buildings for all students’ usage.
Other items from the new policy re-defining the relationship between the district and its transgender community:
- Transgender and gender-nonconforming students shall be recognized as such to the extent desired and in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
- Parent notification is necessary for all students under 18 years of age seeking support measures consistent with their gender identity.
- All persons, including students, have a right to privacy. This includes the right to keep one’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation private at school.
- When contacting the parent or guardian of a transgender student, school personnel should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s sex at birth unless the student, parent, or guardian has specified otherwise.
- The student’s legal name will be used in the district’s official records, including the student’s official transcript. If the parent/guardian or student legally changes the student’s name or birth certificate and proof of the change has been provided, the district will change the official record.
- When an activity is sex-specific, students will only be allowed to participate in activities corresponding to their sex at birth.
USD 231 parent Brenda Thompson spoke in favor of the new policy and says the rights of all students need to be considered:
“This is or never was about transphobia. This policy is about protecting all students’ rights, not just transgender. The schools have already had accommodations in place for their needs, and we just made more.”
We reached out to Board Member Katie Williams, who opposed the new measures for comment, as well as a spokesperson for ACLU Kansas, who warned members of the legal repercussions of the new policy. Both declined.