Would bring district into compliance with state law
All students in Methow Valley School District will be able to use the name and pronoun consistent with their gender identity and expression, along with school facilities like restrooms, if the school board adopts a policy and procedure about gender-inclusive schools.
Adopting the policy, which ensures equal access to learning and activities for all students, would also bring the district into compliance with state law.
The school board was scheduled to review and discuss the policy at their meeting on Wednesday (March 25) at 5:30 p.m. The directors will attend by conference call, but the district’s conference room will be set up for the public to attend while maintaining social distancing.
Before presenting the policy to the board, school administrators asked several students to review it and provide feedback. “I was told the policy language appears to be very supportive of students who identify differently from how they present,” Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable said. “They were very appreciative of the possible adoption of the policy and said it made them feel valued for who they are.”
The school board directors had their first reading of the model policy developed by the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) on March 11. Under state law, by the end of January, all school districts were required to adopt a policy and procedures that incorporate WSSDA’s models at a minimum.
The policy commits the district to respect “the use of names and pronouns, student records, confidential health and education information, communication, restroom and locker room use and accessibility, sports and physical education, dress codes, and other school activities … to provide these students with an equal opportunity for learning and achievement.”
Venable discussed gender policy informally with individual school board directors a few years ago, but they never considered it as a board, he said. The directors believed that other district policies about non-discrimination, harassment and intimidation, suicide prevention, and hiring and employment covered gender inclusion and that these protections were already reflected in the law, he said. “The board thought actions speak louder than words,” he said.
The student feedback Venable presented to the directors this month made a big impression, he said. The board understood that having an explicit policy has meaning for students, even if it’s symbolic. “Until you’ve walked in the shoes of another, you don’t know,” he said.
Under the policy, students would be addressed by their preferred name and pronoun. That name would be used on all records, including athletic rosters, yearbook entries and diplomas. Only the standardized high school transcript requires a student’s legal name, and that can be changed by court order or a signed statement affirming a common-law name change.
Students would be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school and couldn’t be required to use a restroom that conflicts with that identity. Students could request greater privacy if desired.
Use of locker rooms would be assessed on a case-by-case basis to maximize the social integration of transgender and gender-expansive students and to provide an equal opportunity to participate in athletics.
Dress codes would be gender neutral and students could dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity and/or expression.
The procedures would require the district to designate an employee to oversee the policy and to consult, on a voluntary basis, with students about a change of gender expression or identity.
School staff would be required to check with students before communicating with their parents. “For families who are supportive, using the student’s name and pronoun could be affirming for the student. For parents who are not supportive, or who are not aware of the student’s transition at school, referring to their name and pronoun could be very dangerous,” the procedure says.
WSSDA first developed a “transgender student” policy in 2013. It was optional for boards to adopt it, according to Abigail Westbrook, WSSDA’s director of policy and legal services. Last year, the Legislature mandated that districts adopt a policy by the end of January.