Gardner-Edgerton school board to listen as community weighs in on gender identity proposal

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:07 AM CDT
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GARDNER, Kan. (KCTV) - The Gardner-Edgerton School District’s gender, restroom and sports policies have many speaking out, forcing the district’s Board of Education to re-evaluate its policies.

The district’s Board of Education has been considering a policy stating a student must use a restroom or join a sports team based on the gender noted on the student’s birth certificate. Proposed changes now, though, make some accommodations for transgender students as long as they identify their gender identity with a district administrator or counselor.

There is no timetable on when the proposal will be taken up by the school district’s Board of Education, but the proposal is outlined in a document available on the district’s website.

The district’s new proposed guidelines say a student can use the restroom or locker room that conforms with their gender assigned at birth, or they can use any available unisex facility. Students wanting increased privacy will be provided with a more private place.

For example, a nearby restroom with a stall door, an area separated by a curtain, a P.E. teacher’s office, or a nearby health office restroom. They can also have a separate changing schedule by using the locker room before or after other students are in there.

Another popular topic---Sports. The district says eligibility for participation in activities and athletics will be determined in accordance with KSHSAA policies.

A student, parent or guardian, under the proposed changes, would have to identify their gender with a district administrator or counselor. They have to notify the district of a student under 18 wanting to be identified with a specific gender identity unless the district’s attorney deems it not necessary.

The principal, counselor, or relevant staff members will meet with parents or guardians to come up with a written plan to address students’ needs when they find it quote, “appropriate.”

School personnel will not reveal a student’s transgender status, birth name, sex assigned at birth or medical history to any unauthorized individuals unless it’s necessary for an educational, health, or safety reason if they are over 18 years old.

The student and parents or guardians have to request a district staff address a transgender student using the student’s preferred name and pronouns.

One board member told KCTV5 News this will be discussed further, but anticipated it wouldn’t be voted on at Monday night’s district Board of Education meeting.

Families and allies of trans students have protested the policy since board member Jeff Miller originally proposed it in July.

Christina Hodges, whose child identifies as trans, said the discussion on the topic has made students like hers feel bullied and isolated at times.

She described parts of the modified proposal brought to the board Monday as steps in the right direction. However, she worried that certain requirements may not work well for students who do not have strong family support.

In particular, she and other parents had concerns about requiring transgender students to notify the district if they wished to express their identity. The passage reads:

Hodges worried the rule could discourage students from coming out, or that it would result in the district outing a student to their parents.

“You can’t out a person to anyone. Anyone,” Hodges said. “There are some kids who won’t be able to come out to their parents. It’s not your job or your discretion to out somebody.”