• September 15, 2019

Ocean City Board of Education members oppose transgender policy - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Ocean City Board of Education members oppose transgender policy

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 11:19 am

OCEAN CITY — Some Ocean City Board of Education members voiced opposition to a section of a state-mandated policy that could result in parents possibly not being notified if a student identifies as transgender. 

School board members discussed and voted on the policy during school board meetings Wednesday, Aug. 7, and Wednesday, Aug. 28. 

In 2017, a state law was approved to direct the New Jersey Department of Education commissioner to create guidelines for schools to address the needs of transgender students. 

The law also required the commissioner to help school districts create policies and procedures for transgender students, according to information from the state Department of Education.

School districts are required to accept a student’s gender identity and parental consent is not required for this, according to the Transgender Student Guidance for School Districts, listed on the state Department of Education website. 

“There is no affirmative duty for any school district personnel to notify a student’s parent or guardian of the student’s gender identity,” the Transgender Student Guidance information stated. 

The guidance also stated that school districts should be aware of disputes between students and their parents/guardians about a student’s gender identity and listed support resources. 

It also stated that school personnel may not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status. Exceptions can be made if it affects the health and safety of the student or in the event of a bias-related crime.

The school board voted on the second reading of a revised policy Aug. 7. The first reading of the policy occurred in a Wednesday, June 19, school board meeting. 

School board members Dale Braun, Bill Holmes, Michael James, Suzanne Morgan, Fran Newman and Bill Sooy voted against approving the revised policy. 

After casting his vote, Braun said he objected to a part of the policy that stated “we’re not going to notify the parents” if a child identifies by a different name than what was applied for when the student started school. Holmes, James and Newman said they were opposed for the same reasons. 

Morgan said she was opposed for multiple reasons.

Michael Stanton, the school board solicitor, clarified that the policy’s language did not come from the school district. 

School district Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said it is a mandatory policy.  

Braun said his objection is with the state. 

The school board voted to introduce the policy again during a Wednesday, Aug. 28, meeting. 

When school board members gave committee reports, before the vote took place, school board member J. Tiffany Prettyman spoke about the policy and said language was added due to the members’ concerns.

Braun and Holmes voted against the policy again Aug. 28. 

During the meeting, Braun read a statement explaining his feelings on the policy. 

He felt the policy was not affirmative enough in what was expected and felt this “can cause undue possible confrontation between staff and family.”

The policy stated that there should be an open but confidential discussion with the student about the student’s preference about his or her chosen name, pronouns and parental communications. 

Braun felt the language should be changed from “should” to “must or be required to.” He also felt the meeting should be required to occur before any changes to the student’s database or files are made. 

Files should also note whether or not the meeting has occurred and what the student chose, Braun said. 

These changes would better allow for consistent handling of students, Braun said. 

“Students should be well-informed of the services we can offer them, including the availability of meeting with the parents if so desired by the students,” he said. 

If a student doesn’t want his or her parents to be informed, or parents have been informed, this should also be noted in a database or student files, Braun said. 

He felt this approach would give district staff “a heads-up” about what to expect when communicating about the student. 

“I consider the preceding issues to be a reasonable compromise, but I want to make it clear that I do object to the idea of possibly not including the parents in this process, as they are our partners in the well-being and education of our students,” Braun said. 

Braun clarified his objection was with the state and not the school district. He also objected to “any possible surprising confrontations between staff and parents and students” that the policy could cause. 

“It seems to me a controlled, proactive meeting between parents and the district is a much better arrangement than a reactive meeting or confrontation,” he said.

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