Saratoga County

Shenendehowa school district shaping transgender facility policy

Shenedehowa Central School District officials have drawn up a policy that will allow transgender hig

Shenedehowa Central School District officials have drawn up a policy that will allow transgender high school students to request access to a bathroom that corresponds with their identifying sex.

The policy, due for a second reading at the Board of Education’s meeting on Dec. 2, sets criteria in which a district administrator will allow access, including documentation of gender status, the age or maturity level of the student, and the protection of privacy for all students.

In addition, the policy will allow transgender students to use a “single-user bathroom” or alternative changing area instead of school locker rooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity. The policy will also ensure children at the elementary and middle school levels will use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex.

“This policy ensures appropriate and consistent guidelines for facility use by both students and staff,” reads a statement released by the district last week. “Essentially, it aligns the district practice with policy.”

District officials said they have received requests for alternative restroom and locker room accommodations based on specific medical or psychological needs, in addition to the needs of students based on gender identity. They acknowledged these requests are rare.

In formulating the policy, administrators and district attorneys toured the school’s locker and bathroom facilities. The policy was drafted to ensure legal compliance and consistency with existing laws, according to the district.

“As society changes, so does the need for the district to develop comprehensive and thoughtful policies to reflect the changing needs and demands of our students,” the statement reads. “A major point of focus is the preservation of the dignity and safety for all in accordance with the state’s Dignity for All Students Act.”

The policy was introduced earlier this month. Board members could adopt the regulations after the second reading, according to the district.

The policy got a mixed review from Nathan Schaefer, Empire State Pride Agenda’s executive director, who applauded the district for taking a “step in the right direction.” But he said the proposed policy needs to be amended to remove any undue burdens placed on transgender students — namely the process for them to “prove” their gender to administrators.

“A person’s gender identity cannot be a matter for debate and is not something that can be determined by a third party, especially not a panel of school officials who may or may not be trained on the particular issues facing the transgender community,” he said.

“Districts all across the state and country have already developed protective, inclusive protocols for transgender students, including those in New York City, California and Massachusetts, and more are being adopted every day.”

Schaefer said an amended policy should also extend to cover transgender and gender non-conforming students at all levels of learning. He said transgender children are already among the most marginalized in the state, with 75 percent experiencing harassment.

“Elementary and middle school are important years for transgender students, and the earlier a student is accorded respect from peers, teachers and administrators, and allowed equal access to educational facilities, the better their educational prospects will be,” he said.

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