Transgender Student Policy Sparks Bd Of Ed Argument

7-21-16 meeting - 8

Board of Education member Pat Stanley unsuccessfully tried to table a proposed board policy banning discrimination against transgender students.

A policy prohibiting discrimination against transgender students caused a minor controversy at the July 21 Board of Education meeting.

Board member Pat Stanley failed to garner any support for her motion to table voting on the policy, a move she made after saying the board seemed in a rush to approve it.

Under the policy, the school board “will accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity when there is consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity, or any other evidence that the gender-identity is sincerely held as a part of the student’s core identity. The Board of Education will not question or disregard the assertion of a student’s gender identity.”

The policy comes about as a result of the state’s Law Against Discrimination, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity in places of public accommodation, in which category schools are included. The state Department of Education has mandated that districts pass such policies, district officials said.

Stanley objected to what she said was other states’ dictating what New Jersey policy should be, based on laws banning discrimination in schools based on gender identity having been passed in a handful of state legislatures. She also took issue with the lack of a mandate that children who identify as transgender can be treated as such in school without their parents’ knowledge, and that they are treated as such without any psychological counseling.

Stanley said the policy would leave the district open to lawsuits from parents who do not wish their children to be treated as transgender.

“This particular issue isn’t settled, with many parents filing suit over this supposed mandate,” she said.

“In my opinion, I recommend that Franklin Township table this issue until the jurisprudence shakes out,” she said.

“What is it about transgender students that bothers you?” board president Ed Potosnak asked Stanley.

Stanley said gender identity is sometimes arrived at emotionally, and that there “may be other psychological problems that should be evaluated.”

Schools Superintendent John Ravally said that it was “my understanding that the policy has to be in place by the start of the school year in September,” according to directions from the state DOE.

Board attorney Brett Gorman said that under the state’s law Against Discrimination, transgender students are “entitled to accommodation and consideration from school districts,” and not doing so could leave the district liable for a law suit.

“Parents might feel that this is not good for their children,” Stanley said. “The law hasn’t been tested in the courts.”

“You are entitled to your opinion,” Potosnak told Stanley, “but that opinion doesn’t let us as a district be tolerant of discrimination.”

Stanley received no support for her motion to table the policy, and was its only “no” vote for adoption.

The board also adopted, without discussion, a policy allowing for the use of medical marijuana by students.

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