Back to school with some new gender rules

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Title IX changes sexual orientation landscape of public schools

BY KATHY KAHN

Bathroom at RCC
Bathroom at RCC

While most parents are still trying to adjust to Common Core and already considering opting out in the 2016-17 school year, there will  be major changes that will be more apparent when your child goes back to school this September.

Released in July 2015 the New York State Education Department issued “Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” lets teachers, parents and students know the new rules for those who choose a different sexual orientation.

The NYSED’s 12-page guideline booklet may leave administration, teaching staff and students  who do not have transgender or gender nonconforming issues wondering how to navigate the classroom, the gym or the bathroom to accommodate those who do.

LBGTQ activists and the American Civil Liberties Union are delighted that children from K-12 can now choose the sex they identify with, change their names to fit the culture they feel inclined to identify with and to dress the part. Other parents feel sexual orientation is a private affair and prefer it to remain so, both for their children and for themselves.

For children sure of their sexual identities, it may be difficult to get accustomed to a boy being in the girls’ bathroom dressed as a female. The same goes for girls who identify as boys. Regardless of what it says on the birth certificate, the child’s sexual orientation/inclination is the determining factor.

According to NYSED, “Research indivates that transgender and GNC students are targeted with physical violence and experience a hostile school environment at an even higher rate than their Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual peers, both nationally in New York State.”

The Guidelines tell schools to work closely with the student and family in devising an appropriate plan regarding the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status, while others do not wish to divulge their sexual preferences. “These situations must be addressed on a case-by-case asis and will require schools to balance the goal of supporting the student.” They must also keep the parents informed.

NYSED is firm on calling the child by hers or his “preferred name,” rather than the birth name. If a child changes their name from male to female or vice-versa, teachers, school administrators, substitute teachers and other staff should make every effort to immediately update the student’s education records. A school’s failure or refusal to amend such records could lead to delays in the student’s receipt of appropriate services or award of appropriate high school course credit.

For those working in the nurses’ offices, they must adhere to keeping patient records using the birth name only when necessary. According to NYSED, one school administrator dealt with the information in the student’s file by starting a new file with the student’s chosen name, entered previous academic records under the student’s chosen name, and created a separate, confidential folder that contained the student’s past information and birth name. Bathrooms and gym locker room are problematic, but NYSED says “Alternative accommodations, such as a single “unisex” bathroom or private changing space, should be made available to students who request them, but should never be forced upon students nor presented as the only option.

When it comes to graduation, rather than giving young men and women different colors when they walk down the aisle, schools have opted for a single color for all graduates. One school also changed its gender-based dress code for the National Honor Society ceremony, which had required girls to wear dresses. The Dignity for All Students (DASA) Act seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment, free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property, on a school bus or at a school function.

If your child comes home and tells you the teacher is starting to call every student by their last name only, you’ll know why. One middle-school teacher said a female student has decided to become “gender neutral” and changed her name to a color. The school insisted the girl, who identifies as a boy, be called by the name she chose to comply with the law.

“I think a child should be called whatever on is on their birth certificate,” said the middle-school English teacher. “When they are 18, they can change their name to whatever they want to. This is political correctness gone too far. I don’t think it will help these children, either. If anything, I think it will make life more complicated for them when they are with peers who do not agree with their lifestyle.”

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