Next week’s Clark County School Board meeting will again be moved to a larger venue as trustees take up the hot-button issue of developing a formal policy for dealing with gender-diverse students.
If adopted by the trustees, the eight-page draft policy that surfaced Monday will guide principals and schools on how to handle students with diverse-gender expressions.
The proposed policy is the outcome of months of debate and contention over how the school district should comply with a new section of the state’s anti-bullying law. Trustees are scheduled to consider the policy at the board’s June 14 meeting, which will be held in the Clark County Government Center to accommodate an anticipated large crowd.
As written, the draft essentially would codify the case-by-case approach the district currently uses to address gender-diverse students. In addition to creating a written policy, it would require principals to form gender-support teams and create gender-support plans for students.
The draft includes measures to ensure privacy and consider “the rights and needs of the student for which the plan is developed, the capacity of the school and the rights and needs of the student body at large.”
Bathrooms, locker rooms, field trips
The policy addresses some of the most controversial aspects of gender diversity, including the use of shared bathrooms and locker rooms and guidelines for handling overnight field trips, listing three factors for the gender-support teams to consider.
The first one is vague, saying that bathroom, locker room and overnight field trips will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The second would allow students to use the facility consistent with their gender identity.
The final one would allow students to use the facility consistent with their biological sex.
Before final adoption, the trustees may change the options at their discretion, school district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said.
The draft policy also addresses training for staff, as required by the law, and stipulates that students who use the wrong name or pronoun for a gender-diverse student will only be subject to punishment if their actions meet the state’s definition of bullying.
The district’s draft policy comes after State Superintendent of Instruction Steve Canavero signed off last month on the state’s policy and sent it to an interim legislative committee for final approval.
The state policy serves as a general guideline that districts must adhere to as they set their own policies.
Clark County school officials began gathering input on the topic before the state did, creating a working group in July after the law took effect.
At both the state and district levels, the subject of gender diversity has proved to be a lightning rod, with public comment lasting hours each time it came up. Advocates say the policies are necessary to provide consistent treatment of students at all schools, while opponents say such a policy would violate the rights of other students in some cases.
‘Dog and pony show’
Some parents expressed disappointment with the draft policy, saying it showed the district has not taken into account their concerns and wishes.
“It has been such a dog and pony show,” said Erin Phillips, president of the Power2Parent group.
Phillips said she has known from the start that the district and trustees wanted a radical policy that teaches children that gender is not fixed, and that the language of the draft supports that.
“They have never ever one time listened to the voice of the parents,” she said. “This policy totally reflects that.”
She said the group had sent some guidelines to the district, which were not incorporated in the proposed draft. If officials cared about the privacy and protection of all students, she said, they could have solved the issue by converting bathrooms and locker rooms to gender-neutral options.
Phillips said parents in her group are dejected because they engaged in the process and were ignored.
But advocates of the policy said both the district and the state have been responsive and have made changes to address concerns voiced by both sides in the debate.
‘The law is the law’
“Every time these parent groups have shown up to these meetings, they’ve changed the policies,” said Wesley Juhl, a spokesman for the ACLU of Nevada. “Certainly they’re being listened to, but the fact of the matter is, the law is the law.”
Juhl and Laura Hernandez, the mother of a transgender student and the family and youth services coordinator for Gender Justice Nevada, both said they were pleased at the language included in the draft.
“I was actually really surprisingly very pleased with what they came up with. They have really taken a lot of the language straight from the (state) regulation, which I think is good language,” Hernandez said.
There are a few areas where she’d like to see some changes, but she describe those as minor clarifications. Hernandez said she was pleased to see language about overnight trips included, because that was removed from the state policy.
She also praised the draft for spelling out that district employees are not allowed to reveal a student’s gender identity or expression status to other students, other parents and other staff members unless “there is a specific need to know.”
“This goes to training for staff and administration,” Hernandez said.