Arlington Public Schools is working to provide more protections for transgender students and gave the community an opportunity to weigh in Tuesday night at a school board meeting.
The proposed policy implementation procedure, or PIP, is the result of input from various school district models and focuses on a range of issues, including how students should be addressed, implementing dress codes that aren’t gender specific, allowing all students to participate in sports and creating gender neutral restrooms.
Input on the proposed policy was also gathered from The Arlington Gender Identity Allies, as well as other advisory and staff groups, and a community questionnaire was sent out earlier in June.
Assistant Superintendent Tara Nattrass, who also referenced national statistics, stressed the importance of implementing the new policy.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics cited a national survey that said 54% of transgender students have been verbally harassed in school and 24% have been physically assaulted,” she said.
Many in attendance at the school board meeting applauded the district’s efforts; among them, Walter Clark, ministerial assistant at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, who said the kids of today are more accepting of non-cisgender expression than their parents.
“It is my opinion that this PIP is important to make sure that discrimination does not come from the adults. We are the leaders,” he said.
Some students also shared their experiences as transgender or nonbinary students.
But others pleaded with the school board to slow down and take into consideration other students, including those with special needs who may not comprehend a policy they see as forcing minority views on a majority.
A member of the Arlington Parent Coalition shared a survey, showing most students feel their concerns are not being adequately heard in regards to the policy.
Of the 90 students surveyed, 87% said they oppose or strongly oppose the policy due to religious beliefs, the impact this could have on women’s athletics and the possibility of students who disagree with being stigmatized.
The district will continue to make revisions to the proposed policy, taking into consideration community feedback.