Regulatory policy

Proposed SAD 17 Gender Identification Policy Submitted for Community Review

PARIS – Maine School Administrative District 17 will host a community forum next week to hear questions and concerns about its proposed ACAA policy for student gender identity following school board approval of first reading at its October 17 meeting.

The forum is scheduled for Monday evening beginning at 6 p.m. in the Forum meeting room at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and will be led by a third-party moderator.

Response to the policy has been mixed. The majority of those who spoke out against it cited safety concerns for students in washrooms and locker rooms, often unsupervised spaces, as well as claims that it infringes on parental rights.

At the October 17 board meeting, Waterford principal Judy Green, who chairs the school board’s policy committee, said that as part of the committee’s work to draft the policy, he confirmed with every principal that every building “has facilities for students to have privacy and not be forced into a group situation they are uncomfortable with, on either side.

During the board discussion of the policy, Director Natalie Fearon of Hebron said she was not comfortable with the ACAAA policy and Director Robert Jewell of Paris took a firm stand on it. opposite.

“I have a problem with not letting parents know,” she said. “If something is going on with my child, I want to know about it. They are minors, they have no right to secrecy. I don’t want the school to hide things from me. I have a problem with that. For today, I can’t vote for that.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for this policy and I am very confident that we already have three policies in place that cover everything we are trying to cover in this policy,” Jewell told council members, referring to the policies. of the district regarding bullying, discrimination and harassment. He went on to say, “We have a bullying policy. We have a non-discrimination policy. And we have harassment and sexual harassment of students. We also have title 9 which is the law. Federal government law that protects all of these rights. If we don’t enforce Title 9, which we already do, we won’t get Title 9 funding.

“We don’t need this policy. This policy, in my opinion, is an excess. It takes away the rights of parents. There is so much wrong with this policy that I never see myself being able to vote for it. So my vote will be no, based on those facts.

Vice President Jared Cash of Norway countered Jewell’s position that a gender equality policy for students is not warranted.

“It looks like everyone is going to be talking about this topic,” he said. “We are the local school board and we have policy, we have laws. It’s important but it doesn’t answer all the important questions, that’s why we have other interpretations…. on this very important subject. I support this first reading.

“It’s a process where we read it out loud, we hear people’s concerns like any other policy. We bring it back. We use legal counsel. We use our own best local information to determine what is appropriate for this school district. But we don’t leave our staff and students stranded without enough policies to fall back on.

In response to opposition to the policy, some of which was based on inaccurate or misleading information, SAD 17 released a Frequently Asked Questions document which explains the basis of the ACAA and lists the statutes and legal advice used to draft the draft policy. The FAQ is available on the district website and can be found here:

Links to the draft policy as well as DAS Board Policy 17 can also be accessed using the same link.

A Paris resident, Armand Norton, has been pressured to start a petition to recall that city’s school board directors who voted in favor of the policy, Sarah Otterson and Julia Lester. Otterson has served on the board since February 2019, when she was nominated by the Paris Board of Selectmen, then elected in 2020 to retain her position. Lester was elected to her seat in 2021.

Paris City Hall Clerk Elizabeth Knox confirmed last Friday that Norton had filed a request with the city to start a recall petition. If 10% of Parisian voters sign the petition, Norton will be allowed to present it to the select committee, which will trigger a special election 45 days after they are received. The process, which is outlined in the city ordinance, gives the subjects of any recall petitions 21 days to request a public hearing to respond to the complaints.

Norton told the Democratic announcer he was motivated to act because ACAAA policy does not require students to undergo a medical evaluation before claiming a different gender identity. It supports gender identity policies that conform to medical assessments and parental knowledge of their children’s medical plans.

“Students should take the appropriate route to formally change their gender identity and use the bathroom of their choice,” he said. Hypothetically, under the current draft policy, Norton pointed out that any male could tell school officials that he identifies as a female and that they should allow him to use the unprecedented girls’ bathroom. nor plan to support their statement. “I want to make sure people go through the right channel for this.”

Both Otterson and Lester said they couldn’t comment on the petition because they hadn’t been notified, but Otterson emailed a statement about why she voted in favor of the first reading. politics.

“This policy is intended to be interpreted in light of applicable federal and state laws/regulations as well as other applicable board policies, procedures and school rules,” she wrote. “In any case, speakers/guests at the October 17 board meeting said that students seeking help were encouraged to talk about identity with their parents, if their parents weren’t already involved. “However, if students are afraid of being hurt or expelled (due to their gender identity) and requesting confidentiality, that is their right.”

Norton also said he spoke with an attorney who represents school districts on policy and was told the draft policy could not have been properly approved by legal counsel, and expressed concerns. concerns that the policy had been written in secret without any input from the public.

During the October 17 meeting, Superintendent Heather Manchester and Director of Student Services Jan Neureuther, who worked with the Policy Steering Committee, assured school board principals and members of the public that the group had been working on the project for over a year. It was drafted with the advice of legal counsel for SAD 17 in Drummond Woodsum of Portland since 2019.

“It’s in the works, I’ve been answering questions for three years,” Neureuther said then. “Drummond Woodson wrote the first, original in 2019. Last year I received an overwhelming amount of phone calls about to “about preferred pronouns and nouns and other situations that educators and staff needed direction.

“Our job is to help students feel safe…. It is our duty not to put our students in danger. If our students or children feel they can come to us as parents, that’s great. But we have to protect the students who can’t have that. There is a reason for homelessness, suicide rates. When you look at one in four transgender students, 56% of them attempt to do so, and then 25% succeed in committing suicide. It can save a life. »

Manchester confirmed to the Democratic Announcer on Monday that the school board focused on ACAAA policy even before she was appointed superintendent. The process followed by the Policy Committee included convening sessions with stakeholders to hear the provisions of the policy and provide their feedback as well as ongoing legal advice. All school board meetings are open to the public.

“We are basing this policy on our attorney Drummond Woodsum’s model policy,” she said. “We attended several professional development sessions with them and had one-on-one consultations with our lawyers [there].”

Manchester added that students must display a consistent pattern of gender identification before they are allowed to use preferred pronouns and nouns have access to other sanitary facilities.

“What this says is that children who consistently identify at school or present themselves at school as another gender can talk to us for help figuring out where to go to the bathroom,” said explained Manchester. “They can’t decide ‘one day I’m a girl and the next day I’m a boy.’ This [the policy] does not require a medical diagnosis, but the student must demonstrate that they have a gender identity.

The policy states that students and their parents/guardians can ask the school to take action to support a student’s gender identity. It states that the school cannot inform parents/guardians of the student’s gender identity without their approval. But even when a student asks for confidentiality, a parent or guardian can ask to see their child’s school record, which would include details about their gender identity at school.

The policy also allows school administrators to request materials from external providers if it is deemed necessary to develop an appropriate plan for a particular student. All plans must be reviewed and approved by building administrators. If a parent objects to their child’s gender identity plan, the school must respect the student’s wishes.

“This policy aims to provide clear guidance to staff and administration on how to support our students,” Manchester said. “Without guidelines, without this policy, unfortunately it is up to administrators and teachers to make their own decisions and we need to advise on this so that we can support our students fairly.”

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