April 21, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Gardner-Edgerton school board delays decision on transgender policy

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Approval of a transgender policy on restrooms and other issues at Gardner-Edgerton USD 231 will be delayed for at least a month while opinion surveys issued to families and staff are analyzed.

An overflow crowd heard emotional testimonies from nearly two dozen speakers on both sides of the controversial issue at a recent school board meeting.

The guidelines to be finalized center on these issues:

  • Students may use the restroom or locker room that conforms to the student’s gender assigned at birth or any available unisex facility.
  • Parent/guardian notification is necessary for all students under age 18 seeking to be recognized in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
  • The student’s legal name will be used in the district’s official records, while the student’s preferred name reflecting their gender identity may be used when a legal name is not required, such as in a recognition ceremony.
  • Upon request by the student and parent/guardian, the student shall be addressed using the student’s preferred name, if different from their legal name, and should refer to the student using pronouns the student prefers.
  • Transgender students will be allowed to dress in a manner that conforms to their gender identity and will be subject to the dress code for that gender.

The Kansas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes these guidelines, finding them discriminatory against transgender students. We reached out to the representative but were referred to a letter the organization sent to the district following the meeting, which read, in part:

The revised policy, as currently written, still runs afoul of established law. In particular, the policy still illegally forces transgender students to use the restroom or locker room based off their sex assigned at birth and increases the likelihood that trans students will be forcibly outed or deadnamed and misgendered at school. 

ACLU-Kansas added a not-so-veiled warning to the district:

(A revision of these guidelines) not only would this help the Board live up to its desire to provide a safe and dignified environment for all its students, it would also help the district avoid potential costly litigation—like the $1.3 million in legal fees the Gloucester County School Board had to pay for enforcing a policy similar to the amended policy at issue in USD 231.

Board member Katie Williams opposed the transgender policy and successfully urged members to delay approval of the new guidelines until parents and staff could be surveyed on the issue. She declined our request for comment.

Comments were also sought from guidelines author Jeff Miller and Board President Tom Reddin. Neither responded to our request.

Gardner-Edgerton is not the only district experiencing controversy over its transgender policy.  Parents in Eudora and Shawnee Mission are also concerned about school policies.

The next board meeting for USD 231 will be on October 3rd.

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