UPDATE: No action on Port Angeles school transgender policy in wake of protest
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The board voted unanimously Thursday night to table the proposed policy and turn it over to the district's policy committee to create a procedure on how to implement the state's requirement for transgender policy in a way satisfies all parties' needs for privacy and safety.
“We want to get procedure in place before we vote on the policy” to see “how it actually is going to look,” Sarah Methner, the board member who moved for the referral to the committee, said later.
The committee, which includes School Board member Lonnie Linn as well as community and staff members, also will be asked to consider adding transgender aspects to the district's existing discrimination policy instead of creating a stand-alone policy, the board said.
No timeline was approved for consideration of the procedures and policy.
Passage of a policy protecting transgender students from discrimination is required of all public school districts by the state Office of Superintendent of Instruction, as directed by state law enacted in 2010.
All districts in the state are required to implement a policy that complies with state law by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.
Opponents told the board that the policy represents unacceptable mandates and that the board should refuse to enact it.
“The board is being held hostage by the federal government by a mandate that is wrong,” said Darryl Wood of Port Angeles.
Wood said the transgender law is “against our culture, and accelerates the war against the middle class.”
He was one of 15 who spoke against district approval of a transgender policy, while more than 40 people filled seats and spilled out into the hallway as they cheered and applauded opposition speakers.
Three spoke in favor of a policy.
“You're talking about my child,” said Angie River of Port Angeles.
River was in tears as she said that her child “is harassed and made fun of every day" because of the child's clothing choices.
Board President Steve Baxter said that for every person at the meeting, board members and the district office received 10 or 20 emails and phone calls on the issue.
In its 2012 guidelines for public school districts to implement state laws against discrimination, the state Office of Superintendent of Instruction says that transgender students have the right to be addressed by the name and pronoun of their choice, to dress as the gender of their choice and to use the restroom consistent with their gender identities.
The guidelines also say that any student who wants increased privacy, including those uncomfortable sharing a restroom with transgender students, should be provided an alternative.
Transgender students should be allowed to participate in physical education and athletics “in a manner consistent with their gender identity,” the state said.
The use of locker rooms by transgender students “should be assessed on a case-by-case basis” to maximize social integration, ensure the student's safety and minimize stigmatization.
“In most cases transgender students should have access to the locker room that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school,” the guidelines say, adding that alternative changing areas should be provided those who have a desire for more privacy.
The guidelines also encourage gender-non-specific dress codes.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.
Managing Editor Leah Leach contributed to this report.
Last modified: June 15. 2014 7:39PM