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POTUS’s Statement on Transgender Inclusivity in Schools and Waynesboro Public Schools’ Reaction

On Friday, May 13th, President Obama and his administration issued a statement telling public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches the gender they identify with. The Departments of Education and Justice gave statements to public schools including guidelines so transgender students feel they are in a community of support and nondiscrimination while in school.

“[Waynesboro does] have a written policy that clearly prohibits discrimination and harassment of students. We continue to monitor the court case as well as the actions of federal agencies to determine what, if any, changes to our current policies and practices are necessary to remain compliant with applicable law. In the meantime, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other privacy laws limit our ability to describe our practice with respect to an individual student. Our constant priority is to provide a safe and supportive educational environment for all students, and to treat all students with dignity and respect,” said Jeffrey Cassell, Waynesboro Public Schools Superintendent.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Transgender FAQ says someone who identifies as transgender identifies with a gender that differs from the sex marked on their original birth certificate. It is an internal sense of being a man, woman, or someone outside the binary of standard genders. The sex assigned at birth and the internal gender identity of the person do not match. Transgender students may use a variety of terms to describe themselves, including those such as transgender, transsexual, and genderqueer. To avoid discriminating against or hurting the person’s feelings, check with the person first and use the term(s) and pronouns they prefer. Some transgender people go through what is called transition, or the purposeful changing of their body so their outward appearance better reflects their internal identity. The word transgender is used as an adjective, so someone is a transgender person, not a transgender. In essence, gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of oneself, and a transgender person (or student) is someone whose sex or gender assigned at birth differs from the gender they identify with inside.

“Waynesboro Public Schools currently does not have a policy specific to transgender students’ use of bathrooms. Though the federal executive branch has issued its interpretation of applicable law, we are waiting for a decision by the federal courts as to the impact the executive branch’s interpretation will have on our operations and whether there is a need for any written policy regarding bathroom use by transgender students,” said Cassell.

Policy in Waynesboro Public Schools is constantly updated, being “most often implemented when new laws or regulations necessitate the need for a new policy. Occasionally, a need is identified or a situation arises locally that results in the need for a new policy or a revision to an existing policy,” said Cassell. To implement a new policy in the WPS system, the “policy is presented to the Waynesboro School Board by recommendation of the Superintendent. Typically, there is a first reading of the policy during which an explanation of the policy is offered and any questions are answered or discussions occur.  Revisions may be made at the direction of the school board. At the next meeting of the school board, there is a second reading of the policy, during which additional discussion may occur. Typically, a vote is taken to adopt the policy after the second reading. Additionally, readings of the policy may occur before a vote is taken if the school board wishes to continue discussions or gather more information,” said Cassell.

Waynesboro waits for federal courts to make decisions regarding new policies before implementing said policy, and this is most evident in the president’s suggestion for transgender inclusivity. Waynesboro High School has proved itself as a school to set the precedent for others in the community, especially with the recent addition of the Gay­ Straight Alliance, as WHS is one of the few schools in the area to have a GSA. The implementation of transgender inclusivity policies, specifically in regards to bathrooms, is still in motion across the country, but for the moment, Waynesboro Public Schools is waiting for the federal court’s interpretation of the federal executive branch’s suggestion, while still trying to promote a community free from discrimination and harassment.

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