Montgomery Co. schools add third gender option for students

A Montgomery County school bus is seen in this Dec. 23, 2015 WTOP file photo. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Students in Montgomery County Public Schools will have a third gender option to declare on their school records.

This year the school system is adding an “X” classification in addition to male and female gender options, according to a letter from Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Jack Smith to Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon requesting that the change become official.

The letter states that Montgomery County school system has received “a number of requests” from students and their parents seeking to designate their gender in their official student records as “nonbinary” or “unspecified.”

In a return letter on Aug. 13, Salmon confirmed that the Maryland State Department of Education does not have any objections to the gender selection change in Montgomery County Public Schools.

“I know that you share our commitment to promoting a safe, welcoming school environment where students are engaged in learning and are active participants in the school community because they feel accepted and valued,” writes Smith in his letter to the MSDE. “I hope that MSDE will continue to collaborate with MCPS to support students so they may participate in school life consistent with their gender identity,” the letter continues.

The letters state that the change will be implemented fully by the summer of 2020. Until then, Smith states that MCPS plans to accommodate requests for nonbinary or unspecified gender designations in official school records on a case-by-case basis.

Smith’s letter cites the U.S. Department of Education recently revised guidance on the approach to reporting students’ sex, stating that the attributed sex, is based on “the biological traits that distinguish male and female” and that the only permitted values for this attribute are “M” for male, “F” for female and “Missing.”

The USDOE guidance says that students who do not identify as either male or female could not be included in counts where sex is a required category, therefore, in the new guidelines, it was stated that, “they should be included in all student counts where sex is not a required category.”

Smith says in his letter that this allows state and school districts to use the “missing” value for a student who identifies as “nonbinary” or “unspecified” to include those students moving forward.

Public school systems in D.C., and Arlington and Alexandria City in Virginia are also adding the new gender option. 

Effective in October, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration will permit drivers to designate their gender on their driver’s licenses as male, female, or “X” for unspecified or nonbinary.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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