Tolland OKs transgender school policy despite student privacy concerns | #schoolsaftey

The policy, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Education on Wednesday, states that faculty must address a transgender student according to the student’s chosen pronouns and the gender they identify with, even if it is not the one they were born with and even if it is not shown on their school records.

It also states that the student’s preferred name and gender overrides a parent’s preference if goes against the student’s wishes, and a transgender student is not required to show documents reflecting their gender identity nor does one need to have their name legally changed. A transgender student is also not required to consistently and uniformly dress as male or female. 

Refusal to address a transgender student by their chosen identity could have civil rights implications for the school district, officials believe.

Some parents and students, however, were concerned about one portion of the policy that states that if a student explicitly says that they want their gender identity changed in their school records, the school district must notify the student’s parents or guardians of the change. If the district feels that the student is at risk for harm by informing their parents, school staff is required to notify the state Department of Children and Families.

Superintendent Walter Willett said that the communication process with parents would include the district’s Title IX coordinator, who oversees all complaints about sex discrimination.

Many parents and students in attendance Wednesday told the board members that the priority should be on the privacy and wellbeing of the student, adding that allowing a teacher to notify a parent or guardian that their child is transgender would essentially out the student and could create an unsafe environment for the student if they do not have support.

“If teachers are required to out students, it would not only break their right to privacy, but it would also put them in danger,” PFLAG Tolland-Mansfield Chapter President Lisa Day-Lewis said. “I hear about young children being abused by a parent or caregiver. Students want love, support, and safety.”

Transgender activist Matilda Murray told the board that when she was in middle school, she gave a letter to her teacher saying that she doesn’t always feel like a boy, and as a result, the teacher had shared that information with the class. 

“It was an awful middle school for that kid — for me. If my parents knew, it would’ve been worse,” said Murray, who currently has two children in the Tolland School District. “Think about kids’ privacy, this will cause problems for kids.”

“The policy to contact parents is not right. It’s not morally correct for anyone to be outed to their parents just because they talked to their teacher. That can cause problems at home,” said her son, Beckett Murray.

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