The Upper Moreland School District in Pennsylvania proposed a new policy that advises teachers and staff to avoid telling parents their children’s gender identity or pronoun preferences, and to focus specifically on school-related, not gender, issues when speaking with parents.
The school district discussed its proposed policy related to “Transgender and Gender Diverse Students at a board meeting on Tuesday.
The document states its purpose is “consistent with the goals of reducing stigmatization and maximizing transgender and gender diverse (TGD) students’ social integration in District programs, services, and activities.”
The policy contains a lengthy list of definitions related to sex and gender.
“Understanding the terminology associated with gender identity and expression is important to providing a safe and supportive school environment for all individuals,” the document states.
The list of terms includes “biological sex,” the definition of which includes the idea that sex is “assigned” at birth; “gender binary,” which is described as a “model” that is “limiting and does not take into account gender diverse individuals”; “gender diverse”; “gender fluid”; “gender nonconforming”; and “genderqueer.”
The guidelines of the policy state “the prerogative to assert the rights of the gender expansive and transgender students belong to the student and do not require additional parental/guardian consent,” unless required by law.
The policy continues regarding student privacy and confidentiality:
- All, persons, including students, have a right to privacy. This includes keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. Therefore, school personnel should not disclose information about a TGD student’s gender identity and expression to others, including the student’s parents/guardians and/or other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure or explicitly disclosed their gender identity in the school setting. District personnel are authorized to encourage students to disclose gender identity to parents/guardians and counsel students in this regard.
- Students have the right to openly discuss and express their gender identity and expression, and to decide when, with whom, and how much information to share.
- District and school personnel may encounter situations where transgender students have not disclosed their transgender status. School personnel must be mindful of the confidentiality and privacy rights of students when communicating with others, so as to not to violate those rights by, for example, revealing, implying, or referring to a student’s gender identity or expression.
- To ensure confidentiality when discussing a particular concern such as conduct, discipline, grades, attendance, or health, school personnel’s focus should be specifically school related and not on the student’s gender identity or expression.
The proposal includes a section that requires incorporating “positive information” about transgender identity and gender diversity in the curriculum and making sure information about the LGBTQ lifestyle is accessible to students online.
Diversity training for teachers and staff is also recommended to include the idea that “bullying” of transgender students may be viewed as sexual harassment, and that a subsequent investigation might be warranted.
“Schools only have authority over children because their parents delegate that authority,” said Parents Defending Education Director of Outreach Erika Sanzi in a statement reacting to the proposed policy. “Parents give permission for the school to administer Tylenol or use their child’s photo on a flyer.”
“It is a complete betrayal of trust for a school to withhold information and deliberately deceive parents about their child’s gender identity at school, a much more consequential issue than taking Tylenol,” Sanzi added.
– – –
Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].