Effects from the recent repeal of Obama administration restroom access policies addressing transgender students will not be felt in local schools for now. The Trump administration’s action on Feb. 22 defers decision making to the states.
Entry to corresponding or alternative facilities will continue for students who identify as transgender under Washington state protections, as well as previously adopted nondiscrimination guidelines.
“Our state has a long and proud history of embracing differences, and I will not back down from that,” Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal wrote in a Feb. 23 statement.
Legislation was passed protecting the state’s public school students against discrimination, and OSPI issued corresponding guidelines in 2012, according to the statement.
The Monroe School District developed specific practices to address the needs of transgender or gender nonconforming students in 2014, according to marketing liaison Erin Zacharda, and was not motivated by state law.
“It was brought about as an anticipatory way to respond to any harassment, intimidation and bullying issues that transgender students could potentially face,” Zacharda wrote in an email to the Monitor. “We wanted to be prepared to respond to any violation of any student’s civil rights and felt a board policy needed to be put in place to protect transgender students from potential discrimination.”
The protocol is outlined in the school district’s Board of Directors policy. The section addresses maintaining a safe environment in relation to dress code and confidential information, as well as through access to facilities and activities, such as sports and physical education, and is in alignment with state law.
No student is required to use a bathroom that conflicts with the identity they assert at school, Zacharda wrote. Locker room access is determined on a case-by-case basis, but usually students may use the space that corresponds with their gender identity. Private rooms or separately scheduled changing times are also options offered to students, she wrote.
Zacharda wrote only two reports of harassment of a student based on gender identity have been made in the past five years in any of the district’s schools.
While there is no board policy that explicitly shields transgender students in the Sultan School District, superintendent Dan Chaplik said accommodations have been made for all students without discrimination for at least as long as he has been in his position — since 2007.
“What we do is have plans in place, internal policies for kids that are experiencing that circumstance,” he said. “They have adults they can work with, and bathrooms that are available for their use.”
Chaplik said the school district is responsive to the varying needs of all students. He said for that reason, he has not heard of discomfort expressed by students in relation to gender identity.
“We do our best to respect individuality, and respect the greater good for everyone,” he said.
Chaplik said it is likely less than 1 percent of the school district’s students identify as transgender. His estimate is close to what a Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law study found for Washington youth between the ages of 13 and 17.
Zacharda wrote that school district staff is following activity at the federal level.
“However, we abide by state law and look to the guidance of the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction when considering policy revisions,” she wrote.