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COMMENTARY: Victor Joecks’ column engaged in fear mongering rather than thoughtful conversation

Victor Joecks’ Oct. 26 column, “CCSD laying groundwork to implement radical transgender policies,” was uninformed and designed to play upon parental fears.

As a high school principal in the Clark County School District, I have worked closely with a small but growing number of students who are self-identifying as transgender. District administrators have been asking for a formal policy for several years, such as the one adopted by Washoe School District in 2015 and many other school districts across the country. This is so we can protect the rights of transgender students by implementing a uniform policy districtwide.

Reno, home of the Washoe County School District, is a far cry from the center of “left-wing doctrine” claimed in Mr. Joecks’ column. The use of charged political terms is a blatant attempt to make this a right-left issue, when in reality the district is working to meet the needs of its students in alignment with state and federal law.

The district currently creates individual plans with counselors, administration, central office personnel and families for each student whose parents ask for assistance as their student transitions genders. An adopted policy is critical so we can be fair to all parties when working with gender-diverse students and to ensure that all students and their families have access to complete information on how the district handles these cases.

I’m disappointed that Mr. Joecks chose to engage in fear mongering rather than having a rational, thoughtful conversation about this important topic. This is not about allowing students to arbitrarily change their gender, as Mr. Joecks suggested, and I challenge him to provide an example of a high school student changing gender simply to use a different locker room or gain an advantage in sports. In addition, he mentioned co-ed showers as being on the near horizon. Showers have not been used in schools for decades and this example shows that Mr. Joecks is woefully out of touch with current school policy.

Changing one’s gender is a deep, personal decision made by students with their families. Mr. Joecks’ attempt to minimize these decisions displays his clear lack of understanding of the reality that some of our transgender students are faced with every day. I encourage Mr. Joecks to spend time with the incredibly tolerant generation of students currently attending district schools. He will quickly see students who are more concerned with AP scores, graduation and finding an after-school job than with who might be in the bathroom stall next to them. The best way to remedy any potential situation in which a student may feel his or her privacy has been violated will be through an adopted district policy that outlines the rights of all students.

Transgender students have an extremely high rate of depression and suicide. We have a duty as educators and members of the community to support these students, just as we support all of our students. I’m proud to serve on the working group who represent a variety of perspectives, including parents, educators, students and pastors. We have had some difficult conversations, and I look forward to seeing what recommendations we put forward to discuss in the public meetings to be held in December.

All members of our community are invited to attend those public meetings, which are listed on ccsd.net/genderdiverse. I look forward to the discussion and a long overdue uniform transgender student policy for the Clark County School District.

Jonathan Synold is principal of Advanced Technologies Academy.

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