I attended a local school board meeting (Alpine School District) today and made the following comments to share my views on the recent edict from the Federal Departments of Justice and Education (click here to see their Letter on Transgender Students). This is what I wrote in advance and not necessarily the exact words I used.
I would like to speak to the issue of gender identity based usage of bathrooms and locker rooms. With the assumption that students are being harmed by the current birth gender policy and without regard to whether this is a federal overreach I have several concerns:
- Since over 50,000,000 K-12 students and over 20,000,000 college students may be impacted by this policy, what research has been done to support the specific guidelines that were issued?
- What are the benefits to the policy?
- What are the negative impacts? It is very possible that the policy could harm those it was intended to help.
- What is the cost of implementation?
- What programs and/or personnel will be cut to pay for it?
It seems to me that this edict was not issued to help our children but to further a political agenda. If it was motivated by a desire to reduce harm then research would have been done, public input solicited, and pilots conducted. Bear in mind this would directly impact over 70,000,000 youth and young adults. Before a drug can be marketed to a much smaller population research needs to be competed. Do our children deserve less?
I urge the board to reject the mandate and put in place contingency plans to operate without federal funding. If this isn’t the issue that tips the scales there will surely be another one, so I believe it is appropriate to be prepared.
Here are a couple of additional comments that in retrospect I wish I would have added.
- If I were a teacher or member of district staff I would have concerns about the mandate being implemented. My concern would be selfish in that if the mandate is implemented I expect that there would be a significant exodus of students from public education. This would lead to a reduction in funding and a commensurate lose of jobs. The funding loss could very well be larger than the potential loss of federal dollars.
- The contingent budget in this case may only need to accommodate the loss of Title IX funds, not all federal dollars.
- I very much appreciate the willingness of several board members to publically indicate that they want to be prepared for a loss federal funds. I think that is appropriate and wise.
This discussion does not need to be divisive. Those who oppose the mandate are not haters any more than those who support it should be considered haters. There are multiple reasons to oppose it and there should be open discussions about it. Unfortunately, on this issue, like so many others, it will likely become personal. Reasonable discussion will be nearly impossible.
By the way I don’t believe the federal government has the constitutional authority to make education policy for the nation. That said, we have allowed this to happen and by accepting federal funding we implicitly agree to federal control. In simple terms we have agreed to give the federal government our money and let them tell us what we need to do to get some of it back. It is absurd but that is our reality.
A summary of the “Dear Colleague” Federal Letter
Italicized text is a direct quotation from the Letter
Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.
Sex assigned at birth refers to the sex designation recorded on an infant’s birth certificate should such a record be provided at birth.
Transgender describes those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender male is someone who identifies as male but was assigned the sex of female at birth; a transgender female is someone who identifies as female but was assigned the sex of male at birth.
Gender transition refers to the process in which transgender individuals begin asserting the sex that corresponds to their gender identity instead of the sex they were assigned at birth. During gender transition, individuals begin to live and identify as the sex consistent with their gender identity and may dress differently, adopt a new name, and use pronouns consistent with their gender identity. Transgender individuals may undergo gender transition at any stage of their lives, and gender transition can happen swiftly or over a long duration of time.
The letter starts with a definition of terms (see above) and then the first paragraph thereafter starts with a reminder (implied threat) that “As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX or its implementing regulations.”
The Federal Department of Justice and Department of Education have determined that a “transgender” individual’s gender identity constitutes a “sex” under Title IX and therefore in order to be Title IX compliant “a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”
A schools Title IX obligations include:
- Safe and Nondiscriminatory Environment .
- If sex-based harassment creates a hostile environment, the school must take prompt and effective steps to end the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.
- A school’s failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity may create or contribute to a hostile environment in violation of Title IX.
- Identification Documents, Names, and Pronouns
- Under Title IX, a school must treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex.
Title IX’s implementing regulations permit a school to provide sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, housing, and athletic teams, as well as single-sex classes under certain circumstances.When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be allowed to participate in such activities and access such facilities consistent with their gender identity.
- Restrooms and Locker Rooms. A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.
- Athletics. Title IX regulations permit a school to operate or sponsor sex-segregated athletics teams when selection for such teams is based upon competitive skill or when the activity involved is a contact sport. A school may not, however, adopt or adhere to requirements that rely on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes about the differences between transgender students and other students of the same sex (i.e., the same gender identity) or others’ discomfort with transgender students.
- Single-Sex Classes. Although separating students by sex in classes and activities is generally prohibited, nonvocational elementary and secondary schools may offer nonvocational single-sex classes and extracurricular activities under certain circumstances. When offering such classes and activities, a school must allow transgender students to participate consistent with their gender identity.
- Housing and Overnight Accommodations. Title IX allows a school to provide separate housing on the basis of sex. But a school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations or to disclose personal information when not required of other students.
- Other Sex-Specific Activities and Rules. Unless expressly authorized by Title IX or its implementing regulations, a school may not segregate or otherwise distinguish students on the basis of their sex, including gender identity, in any school activities or the application of any school rule. Likewise, a school may not discipline students or exclude them from participating in activities for appearing or behaving in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity (e.g., in yearbook photographs, at school dances, or at graduation ceremonies).
Protecting transgender students’ privacy is critical to ensuring they are treated consistent with their gender identity. The Departments may find a Title IX violation when a school limits students’ educational rights or opportunities by failing to take reasonable steps to protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status, including their birth name or sex assigned at birth.
- Disclosure of Directory Information. Under FERPA’s implementing regulations, a school may disclose appropriately designated directory information from a student’s education record if disclosure would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy. Directory information may include a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. School officials may not designate students’ sex, including transgender status, as directory information because doing so could be harmful or an invasion of privacy.