Montgomery Co. explains its new ‘third gender’ option for students

A stock photo of a Montgomery County Public Schools bus. Dec. 23, 2015. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Montgomery County, Maryland, officials are explaining their reasoning behind a new policy that gives students a third option when declaring their gender on school records.

Under the policy, students of Maryland’s largest school system can mark their gender as either “M” for male, “F” for female, or “X” as unspecified or nonbinary.

“The traditional system has male and female, and we know that’s not how our students come anymore,” said county schools spokesman Derek Turner. “There’s a variety of ways that our students come to us.”

The policy begins with the new school year, which starts Sept. 3.

“We want to make sure that option is available in our current records system,” Turner said. “All students need to feel welcome, and all students deserve the ability to learn in a safe and welcoming environment.”

If a student wishes to mark an “X” by their gender, Turner said, they will need to speak directly with their school administrator. That process is expected to become more automated next summer, when the county rolls out a revamped student information system.

“Everyone wants students to feel welcome in schools, because that’s when they learn best,” Turner said.

Earlier this month, Montgomery County Superintendent Jack Smith sent a letter to Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon requesting that the change become official.

“Montgomery County Public Schools has received a number of requests from students and their parents seeking to designate students’ gender in their official student records as nonbinary or unspecified,” Smith wrote. “MCPS intends to accommodate these requests.”

Although Smith noted that recognizing “X” for gender identity could have implications for state and federal reporting requirements, Salmon wrote back saying that she had “no objections” to the plan.

“I expect your data reporting staff will work to address any questions that may arise,” Salmon wrote.

Similar policies have been rolled out in D.C. Public Schools and in Arlington and Alexandria.

Effective October, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration will also give drivers the option of putting an “X” by their gender on licenses and ID cards.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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