School board OKs transgender policy

Move reduces threat of litigation, superintendent says

A change in policy strengthening the Sequim School District’s nondiscrimination stance toward transgender students met with opposition for the second consecutive meeting Monday night, but earned unanimous support from the five-member board.

Though the school district has a nondiscrimination policy in place, Sequim schools superintendent Kelly Shea said the transgender student-specific policy further addresses how school staffers approach issues with transgender students.

“Right now, we’re making it up as we go,” Shea said Monday. “I think the biggest issue is, ‘What happens when … ‘? If we don’t have things in place, we open ourselves to discrimination lawsuits.”

Board members got their first look at the policy in July. It reads, in part, “The board recognizes the importance of an inclusive approach toward transgender students with regard to official records, confidential health and education information, communication, restroom and locker room accessibility, sports and physical education, dress codes and other school activities, in order to provide these students with an equal opportunity for learning and achievement.

“This policy and its procedures will support that effort by facilitating district compliance with local, state and federal laws concerning harassment, intimidation, bullying and discrimination.”

As in a July meeting, the policy adoption consideration drew comments from the public, with all but one opposing policy adoption.

“(This adoption) will cause a lot of disruption,” Sequim resident Jerry Sinn said. “I just don’t see it’s worth it.”

“I think the whole thing is preposterous,” Carlsborg resident Melvina Worman said.

Sequim resident Laura MacMurchie spoke in favor of the policy adoption.

“This is reality now,” she said.

Despite initial indications from state school officials that the transgender policy was required by state law, Shea said school board members were not required to adopt the policy.

In the end, all five board members — president John Bridge, Bev Horan, Mike Howe, Walter Johnson and newly appointed board member Heather Jeffers — approved the policy.

“It’s not about 2,790 students always; it’s about your one, and your one, about each one of our (students),” board member Bev Horan said Monday night. “These students have the same rights for a good education. They don’t come in … with agendas. They come in to get a good education. It’s an issue of safety and an issue of dignity. They want to have a place of privacy. As a school board member, I have an obligation for every one of our students.”

Added Johnson, “We should adopt it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Shea said that the school district has at least two students who identify as transgender and that they have worked things out with district staff to use restrooms away from traditional boys- or girls-only facilities.

“Our district has handled this with an elegance no other school district in the peninsula has,” Horan said. “I trust our superintendent to develop a procedure that protects the personal dignity (of students), not just transgender students but of all students.”


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