Sunday, April 6, 2014
OMAK The Omak School District’s new anti-discrimination procedures dealing with transgender students has been readopted.
The school board adopted a state-mandated policy and procedures in February, but readopted the procedure last Wednesday because a word had been omitted.
Except for the addition of the word “transgender” in one place in the implementation procedure, the one adopted last week is identical to the procedure approved in February, board Chairwoman Kathie Brown said. The word’s omission was inadvertent.
Districts throughout the state are tackling similar policies in response to a state legislative mandate to address discrimination against students who gender-identify with the opposite sex. The policy is part of a broader update of all student-related policies.
Despite wording indicating transgender students can choose the restroom and shower facilities in which they’re most comfortable, Superintendent Erik Swanson said existing private facilities would be made available to such students.
The procedure allows for reasonable alternatives to be provided.
“For the foreseeable future, we will continue to use male and female locker and restroom facilities in the traditional manner,” he said. “If a student self-identifies as transgender or their parents bring this issue, we will follow the alternative arrangement provisions of the
procedure and identify appropriate restroom or locker facilities as suggested in the procedure.”
The document also talks about how staff will address such students (use of gender-based pronouns), maintenance of student records, dress codes, sports and PE participation and other school activities. In the case of sports participation, the district would work with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s gender identity participation procedure.
Swanson said the policy was screened by the Washington State School Directors Association legal staff to comply with state and federal civil rights laws.
Omak adopted wording suggested by WSSDA, but some other districts – among them Okanogan – have modified the model policy to meet their needs. Okanogan stripped out all but the bare minimum required to comply with the law, Superintendent Richard Johnson said.
That district adopted a transgender policy at its March 26 meeting.
Among districts that responded to The Chronicle about their policies, Grand Coulee has adopted a policy, Methow Valley and Republic are developing theirs, and Pateros and Oroville have yet to take up the topic.
Johnson said he thinks a lot of voters “don’t realize the state votes these policies in, then requires local boards to adopt them, and then hires auditors to go around the state and make sure their policies are on the board’s books. In this way, the state legislators can say it was not them but the local boards that voted such policies in place.”
There’s a move afoot to call policies and procedures “Washington State Policies and Procedures” and not by the name of local school districts, he said.
“It appears this is more and more the case,” he said. “It is always kind of interesting when a local board/superintendent has to call the state to try and figure out what their policy means so they can explain it to the public. Like I said, I don’t think the people really understand who really makes and approve policies that go into every local board policy book.”