B y Krystle S. Morey

Craving more information and clarification on verbiage, the Granville Board of Education has voted to table a proposed policy on gender identity.
The policy, “7552 Student Gender Identity,” is aimed at fostering a safe learning environment that is free from discrimination for all students, regardless of how they identify.
“We have to respect the gender identity of the student … and recognize that there are different identities,” said board member Molly Celani.
Celani, who chairs the subcommittee working on the policy, added: “I believe that it’s important that we create a safe environment for our students … and this policy does that.”
Student gender identity was the sole policy on the agenda of the board’s meeting last week that was said to need another read-through, by a vote of 9-0. Other policies including health insurance coverage for substitutes, early graduation and credentials for students with disabilities passed by unanimous vote.
The gender identity policy was tabled because a handful of board members were uncomfortable with some of the definitions and terms used to describe some gender identities.
Board vice president Suzanne McEachron expressed concern with some of the proposed wording, asserting that some of the definitions used do not line up with the State Department of Education’s document on “Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment For Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students,” dated July 2015.
“I think that we should put the definitions in that document into our policy and not try to reword them on our own,” said McEachron, who had sent board members an email before the meeting about her apprehension.
Celani responded: “The (definitions) we have are the ones that have been suggested that we include in our policy, knowing that there are many, many, many more definitive definitions.”
“This policy is what the lawyers worked on after that document,” added school superintendent Mark Bessen. “They put those terms in as general terms because those terms are moving.”
Gender Identity is defined by the Human Rights Campaign as “one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.”
The Human Rights Campaign is a national political action committee and civil rights organization “that works to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans,” according to its website.
The many terms pertaining to gender identity that are used in the policy include gender expression, gender nonconforming, cisgender, transition and sexual orientation.
“These are the most common terms,” Bessen said. “If we were to use all of the terms that are out right now, this policy would be … (much more lengthy).”
Board member Dale Bucciero added: “I think we can agree, the language is fluid … as long as we are concerned about the safety and welfare of the students, we are doing the right thing.”
The idea is that district personnel should use the language that each individual student is using to describe his or her own gender identity, appearance or behavior, and referring to each student with the pronouns he or she prefers, according to the state’s guidelines.
Bessen said: “I think we are getting hung up on, ‘if we don’t have this word, we are not going to serve that kid,’ …. that’s nothing like it.”
“If you believe you are cisgender or transgender, it’s OK,” Celani said. “We don’t care. We just want to be able to accommodate you.”
The district is not required by law to implement a policy of this nature.
“This is a policy that provides guidance to the administrators,” said Bessen. It will help school officials ensure students have equal access to all school programs, facilities and activities, regardless of the student’s gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.
For example, the policy protects different aspects including use of bathrooms, locker rooms and participation in sports and clubs. It does not affect how students are referred to in district records. Student information will be changed only after a student has changed his or her name, as demonstrated by a court order or a birth certificate.
The school district has been working on the Student Gender Identity policy since Aug.2015.
“We’ve been working on this for a while … making sure that we have in it everything that needed to be,” Celani said.
The first reading went before the board on Nov. 14 meeting and it was accepted by an 8-0 vote. Board member John McDermott was absent, but because each policy needs at least two readings, the policy needed to be approved a second time.
The gender identity policy subcommittee was scheduled to meet last Thursday to revisit the questioned verbiage. Celani said the policy will likely reappear on the board’s Jan. 9 meeting agenda.



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