Regulatory policy

Moses Lake SD Board Approves State-Required Transgender Policy


MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School Board approved the addition of a policy governing the district’s response to transgender students at the regular board meeting Thursday. A policy covering the issue is required by state law.

“It’s a requirement; our legal counsel advises us to approve it,” Moses Lake Superintendent Monte Sabin said. “I know there are strong feelings on both sides, but the law exists.”

Board members Susan Freeman and Paul Hill voted against the measure in a 3-2 vote.

Sabin presented the policy to the board at the Oct. 13 meeting, saying it was discussed in June and July 2021, but the board took no action. Hill and board member Alana DeGooyer asked for more information before voting. Freeman asked if the proposed policy could be added to the district’s already existing non-discrimination policy. That already included transgender students, she said.

“It came to my attention that when it was a topic (in 2021) there was a different version that was created for the board,” Sabin said. “So I contacted our legal counsel, and he said he hadn’t helped the school district last year with any other documents, but he shared with me a policy and procedure that their firm of lawyers developed for school districts in 2019, which represented the minimum requirements of the law. As I shared (with the board) you could see that (the policy) was very different from the other version from the previous meeting.

During the discussion following Sabin’s review, Hill said he believed the existing nondiscrimination policy would meet the state’s criteria with some revisions.

“My personal feeling is that we don’t need specific special policies for specific segments of our population,” Hill said. “We do not tolerate harassment or intimidation of any kind against anyone. I think we should consider adding the specific minimum verbiage required (under state law).

Freeman said the board revised the district’s non-discrimination policy in 2017.

“This includes gender-neutral language. We didn’t change it, we didn’t delete it. Many school districts took it out, and that’s what prompted this specific law to be written to set a deadline for making that inclusion,” Freeman said. “We were ahead of the game.

However, she said, the procedures that accompany the policy have not been updated. It’s not part of the board’s job, she said, but she thought the procedures should be reviewed and changed if necessary before the board votes on the policy.

DeGooyer said the impression that board members had already made up their minds was wrong.

“I hope every person in this room and every person in the community wants kids to feel safe, valued, respected, all those other positive things,” she said. “That certainly includes your school board.”

Council Chairman Kevin Fuhr, who is also Moses Lake’s police chief, said the district was, in his view, required to adopt a separate policy.

“I’m in the business of law and justice, I’m in the business of law enforcement,” Fuhr said. “Whether I like them or not, I follow state law.”

In his view, the MLSD lawyer had provided an acceptable alternative policy.

“He gave us the language we needed to comply with the law and meet our needs,” Fuhr said.

During his presentation, Sabin went over parts of the policy, saying there was misinformation in the community.

“One of the areas that people are really concerned about is whether parents might know that their student is choosing to be referred to by different pronouns,” Sabin said. “Absolutely, this will be communicated to the family.”

Sabin said it would be treated like other sensitive situations.

“We would have a conversation with the student about how best to approach this with his parents. This communication would certainly take place.

Parents will have the right to access their children’s records, he said.

Schools are required by law to accommodate students when it comes to using restrooms and locker rooms, Sabin said.

“We have already made accommodations for the students. We have great people in our buildings, we have great staff, and we’ve handled those situations appropriately and really been responsive to the needs of the students.

Catch up

Washington state law requires school districts to adopt gender inclusion policies. Most school boards in Grant and Adams counties approved these policies in 2020 and 2021.

Royal School Board members adopted a policy in March 2020. Othello School Board approved a policy in October 2020, and Ephrata and Wilson Creek School Boards in December 2020. Wahluke School Board approved a policy in June 2021.

Quincy School Board members updated district procedures in April 2022.

For more information on state regulations regarding this issue in schools, visit the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website at bit.ly/3DHKqmS.