Transitioning to Transgender Policies: Central Bucks


Lauren Savana, Centurion Staff

Central Bucks, and other area school districts, are finally addressing the controversial topic of transgender students in the classrooms by working to provide a more comfortable environment for their learning experience.
School districts are not the only entity that doesn’t seem to know how to deal with these family’s concerns; the local courts are struggling to protect the civil rights of these students when it comes to gender identity.
“Not only do some states question whether transgender kids are legally allowed equal access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports, opinions vary on whether they even should be.
Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender; it may or may not match their biology,” The Intelligencer, a local newspaper, wrote when reporting the same issue.
Now almost half way through the school year, educators are attempting to accommodate all students fairly.
John Kopicki, Superintendent of Central Bucks School District said as of now there are no gender-specific policies. The districts are currently in the process of enacting such policies.
“Our goal is to make all students comfortable — to understand all students’ rights, we’re doing our due diligence… it’s a sensitive issue and we want to consider all sides,” Kopicki said.
Bucks County Intermediate Unit No. 22 and the district recently held a “community conversation” in hopes of educating school district employees about these issues.
Karen McConnell, superintendent for finance and administrative operations at Central Dauphin School District, was a keynote speaker at the event.
“It’s estimated that four in 1,000 people are transgender and that 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as such,” McConnell said.
“Get yelled at or get beat up” is pretty much the only option transgender people have when using public restrooms across the country. This recent “bathroom hysteria,” as McConnell called it, is one of the most challenging issues that school districts are trying to deal with in Central Bucks, as well as nationwide.
One suggestion given at the “community conversation” was to try to have an open dialogue between districts and the families of these students, and of course the students personally.
Other suggestions were to have school district personnel only address the transgender student by their name and appropriate pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender identity from now on. Also, school districts should attempt to work with these families and create a prepared plan to protect these students in extreme cases.
These students need protection besides in the bathroom. McConell said, when it comes to extracurricular activities like gym, these students should of course participate freely.
The Civil Rights Division of both the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice gave school districts specific guidelines on the best way to protect the civil rights of transgender students.
Title IX, “prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities by institutions that receive federal funds, applies to discrimination based on a student’s gender identity and transgender status,” the letter said.
Title IX also says that the school district personnel must not treat a transgender student differently from other students.
Since Title IX was written, a federal judge in Texas blocked that specific line from going into effect.
“Responding to a lawsuit filed by Texas and several other states, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor granted a preliminary, nationwide saying the Obama administration’s guide would turn schools ‘into laboratories for a massive social experiment,’” The Intelligencer reported.
Despite the legal uncertainty of the issue, Pennridge School District in Perkasie said it would continue abiding by Title IX.
“The district will look to guidance from the courts and regulatory agencies to accommodate all students on a case-by-case basis, particularly where the law in this area remains in flux,” Troy Price, Pennridge’s director of administration said.
When discussion about students requesting private locker rooms and bathrooms, Price said, “it will be district policy to make individual user options available.”
In the Pennsbury School District, Assistant Superintendent Donna Dunar said, “Transgender students are the focus of a board policy that will be developed in the near future by our new board policy committee. We look forward to developing this policy, as we are committed to the uniqueness of every child in Pennsbury.”
Tom Wilschutz, head of Solebury School, a private school in New Hope, has always had a gender policy. Though that gender policy changed after a male student that was staying in the male dorm, came out as a female. This year, Solebury added a gender-neutral bathroom and gender-neutral locker room.
“It’s critically important that students are allowed to be publicly supported as their authentic selves,” Wilschutz said.
Apparently there hasn’t been much of a reaction to the change in policy and these additions to the school. Wilschutz said there are five or six transgender students at the 230-student school that includes grades seven through 12.
As for Doylestown, they tried something a little more unorthodox. Marlene Pray’s, founder of the Rainbow Room, main goal is to “create a community where our transgender youth can safely and freely live their lives and speak openly without fear of repercussions, prejudice and even violence.”
Though the Rainbow Room isn’t in a school building, it’s in the Planned Parenthood building on Court Street in Doylestown. It still serves for an educational purpose and provides a safe place for the LGBTQA+ youth community. Anyone from the ages of 14-21 are welcome to attend community events, keynote speakers, and educational discussions.