LAS VEGAS – The Washoe County, Nevada school district has implemented a new policy that allows transgender students to use the restroom and shower facilities of the opposite sex, and prohibits school staff from discussing students’ transgender status with their parents.
Meanwhile, a draft proposal of a similar policy has surfaced in the Clark County, Nevada school district.
The Clark County draft comes on the heels of a controversy that erupted last year when district officials proposed a new sex education curriculum that was far too explicit for many parents to stomach.
To add to the uproar, district officials reportedly only consulted with a few handpicked residents before floating the proposal.
The resulting protest forced the Las Vegas-based district to cancel any plans to implement the new sex ed curriculum any time soon.
But the behind-the-scenes maneuvering is apparently ongoing. The draft document for a new policy regarding transgender students, seemingly meant to be distributed exclusively among school staff, leaked out last last year.
In Clark County the policy is apparently still in the consideration stages. EAGnews attempted to contact the district for comment, but school officials only forwarded a statement referring to an existing policy addressing student bullying. They neither acknowledged nor denied the existence of the draft policy.
The Washoe County, Nevada school board formally adopted a very similar policy in January, with the same provisions regarding restrooms/showers and no discussions with parents.
The Washoe County school district policy states the following:
“Students shall have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity as expressed by the student and asserted at school.”
“Students shall have access to use facilities that correspond to their gender identity as expressed by the student and asserted at school, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records, including but not limited to locker rooms.”
Another section of the policy allows district personnel to leave parents in the dark, even if their children are going to the bathroom or showering with the opposite sex.
“Staff shall not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender non-conforming status to others, including parents/guardians and other staff members, unless there is a specific ‘need to know,’ they are legally required to do so, or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”
Washoe County district officials indicated that they will respond to questions about their policy, but were not able to do so before publication.
The new policy in Washoe County, and the proposed policy in Clark County, have outraged Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resources Institute, a California-based non-profit that’s also active in Nevada.
While she has no problem with schools doing what they can to accommodate transgender students, she doesn’t believe it should be done at the expense of children who would be uncomfortable sharing restrooms and lockers rooms with the opposite biological gender.
“This is about privacy for our sons and daughters, and modesty,” said England, who said she was provided a copy of the draft policy in Clark County schools by a confidential source, then confronted school officials about it.
“When I was in junior high I didn’t even like changing in front of other girls, and I certainly would not have been comfortable with the possibility of changing in front of boys. And it goes both ways. I’m sure boys don’t want girls in their locker rooms, either.”
England is also troubled by the idea of keeping parents uninformed of their children’s perceived gender status. Kids who identify themselves as transgender are bound to encounter some difficulties at school, and parents have a right to know about and monitor the situation, she said.
“I’m appalled that the school district has a policy that purposefully excludes parents on crucial issues,” she said. “The same people that repeatedly call for more parental involvement in their childrens’ education want to exclude parents from such a crucial part of a student’s life.
“Apparently the believe they can substitute their values for those of parents. That’s a trend we’re seeing in schools throughout the nation and it’s just wrong.”
England dismisses one portion of the Clark County draft policy, which says, “disclosing this (transgender) information other students, their parents or other third parties may violate privacy laws and policies.”
“There is no confidentiality agreement between a math teacher and a student,” she said. “It’s not like a relationship between an attorney or a doctor with clients.”
England believes the transgender policies are the result of a progressive social/political agenda within public schools that goes beyond tolerance.
“It’s way beyond tolerance,” she said. “It’s a matter of bullying kids who don’t want the opposite gender in their restrooms, like there’s something wrong with them for feeling that way.
“This will also be confusing for some kids. We’re going to have second graders being told that they may not really be the gender of their birth. The message is going to be ‘You have to figure out what you really are – a boy or a girl – and that’s going to confuse and upset a lot of kids who aren’t even thinking about this issue.”
England said, as far as she knows, the Washoe County school district is the first in Nevada to adopt the new transgender policy.
She said the such policies are likely the result of pressure put on school districts by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“People need to check on what’s going on with their school districts,” England said. “This came as a shock to some Washoe County parents. They are organizing and trying to determine what their options are.”