WALLINGFORD — At an instructional committee meeting this week, members of the Board of Education voted 7-2 to eliminate a paragraph in its transgender and nonconforming youth policy which states that it would be a violation of the policy if someone intentionally or persistently refused to respect a student’s gender identity.
This updated policy will be on the agenda for the Dec. 19 board meeting and if it is approved, it will become an official policy.
Currently, there is no formal policy in place for transgender and gender nonconforming students in Wallingford schools, but school administrators have been following all state and federal laws and protocols that are written out in this policy. Central office administrators came to the board, asking for the policy to be formally adopted for transparency.
Adopting such policies is recommended by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.
“This was important we felt for transparency for our families and students,” said Carrie LaTorre, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, during the meeting. “If a student is transitioning and wondering what their rights are, this was something that was visible on the policy website that people could go to and find out answers for before approaching school personnel and administration.”
The proposed policy includes how the district will handle gender-segregated activities, restroom accessibility, dress codes, locker room accessibility, official records and more. Along with that, Jennifer Passaretti, instructional committee chairperson, included a summary of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference language in regard to requirements for students looking to compete in interscholastic sports. ‘Intentional or persistent refusal’
When discussing this policy, board members shared their thoughts in regard to a paragraph in names/pronouns section. This paragraph, which the board voted not to include in the finalized policy, states: “The intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student's gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student's gender identity) is a violation of this policy.”
“How do we determine a complaint that a teacher (used the wrong name/pronoun) as being intentional or not?” asked Michael Votto, vice chairperson of the instructional committee.
LaTorre responded that the district has a process for investigating complaints of discrimination.
“The person who is feeling discriminated upon would file the paperwork that the teacher was intentional and an investigation would occur, just like we do for harassment and discrimination now,” LaTorre said. “It goes through the personnel office. It is not something that would be arbitrary. It would be well researched and followed up on.”Legal requirements
Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi said that regardless of whether this policy is formally adopted, the school administrators are going to be following state and federal laws, along with having conversations with students and their families to make sure they are doing what is best for them. This policy is made for transparency, so students and parents can go online and read it.
“Whether there is a formal policy we adopt or not, it’s things that we are going to be continuing to follow irregardless,” Bellizzi said. “... Anytime there’s any kind of complaint or anything that’s brought to our building administrators or comes to central office, we fully investigate it to make sure that we’re doing what’s best for students and for adults and the staff within our building.”
Donna Regan, board member, said she feels the board is “morally” obligated to pass this policy.
“This is something I feel extremely strongly about,” Regan said. “We need to be able to address this … If we do not put a policy into place, then we are doing a disservice to them.”