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Peter’s Take: Support APS Implementation Plan to Prevent Discrimination Based on Gender Identity

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

As ARLnow.com previously reported in 2015, the Arlington School Board unanimously amended its non-discrimination policy to add gender identity as a protected category.

The current version of that APS policy (J-2) is here.

Overwhelming health and scientific evidence support APS’ policy

The current SB policy is strongly supported by conclusions reached by prominent national health, scientific and educational organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, National Education Association, and National School Boards Association.

APS experience since 2015 underscores need for prompt adoption of implementation plan

Since the SB adopted its policy, there has been widespread confusion about how to implement it. Very inconsistent decisions about implementing the policy have been reached from one school to another.

The need for prompt adoption of an implementation plan is illustrated by the following actual situations APS students have faced:

  • a transgender student who was not comfortable using either the boys’ or girls’ locker room to change for P.E. was required to go down to the gym on the first floor to retrieve gym clothes from a P.E. teacher’s office, go up a flight of stairs to change in a private bathroom, then go back down the stairs in P.E. uniform to the gym for class… and then repeat this process in reverse after class
  • a teacher insisted that a student wear a skirt for band concerts, despite the student’s desire to wear the pants uniform (the student’s gender expression is masculine, she never wears skirts); the student ended up quitting band because the teacher would not relent
  • a non-binary student was left standing in the middle of the gym after the gym teacher divided up the students into boys’ and girls’ lines… and then had to instruct the teacher on what being non-binary means
  • a student had arranged with the administrators and PE teachers that he could use the PE teachers’ bathroom for changing. Halfway through the school year, one of the PE teachers (not the student’s) no longer liked the arrangement, and the child lost that option
  • students have been harassed by both staff members and other students while using the bathroom; some students have had staff and other students try to block them from entering a bathroom
  • students have avoided using the bathroom at school, due to both fear of harassment and inconvenience; students have avoided drinking water so that they can make it through the day without needing the bathroom
  • students have not been allowed to change their gender or name on school forms and records, even after getting a court ordered name change or new birth certificate
  • a transgender student was diagnosed with PTSD because of bullying and abuse from peers

These examples illustrate why it is vital for APS staff to adopt a formal policy implementation procedure (PIP). This is a K-12 issue. The PIP will lead to more consistency throughout schools, more understanding on the part of staff and parents, and more training for staff on best practices in supporting transgender and non-binary students.

Summary of draft PIP

The draft PIP that APS staff is proposing to adopt is discussed in the ARLnow story and posted here. It is supported by the overwhelming health and scientific evidence cited above.

Key topics covered by the draft PIP include definitions of “gender identity” and “transgender;” bathrooms and locker rooms; co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and athletic team student participation; dress code; extended instructional field trips or athletic events; names, pronouns, and classroom records; and privacy and educational records.

If this draft PIP had been in effect and properly implemented over the last four years, the traumatic incidents APS students experienced could have been avoided.

Efforts of some parents to criticize APS policy and PIP lack merit

A group calling itself the “Arlington Parents Coalition” has criticized the development of the PIP as a radical promotion of “transgenderism.” But this group is spreading false information and fear based on the false premise that gender identity or expression is an ideology.

Conclusion

The PIP should be adopted without delay. Properly implemented, the PIP will save lives, not promote any ideology.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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