Officials: Schools want ‘safe, secure learning environment’ for all

A week after the federal government told schools that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice, local school officials said they are handling any questions or concerns individually.

And administrators also are hoping to receive clarification from the federal government.

Last week the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education released a statement that clarified that transgender students should be able to use whichever restroom or locker room that they identify with, not just their birth gender.

At local schools, officials said they have not had to create a specific policy for transgender students, administrators said. If a transgender student has talked to a teacher or principal about modifying which restroom he or she uses, officials have discussed it on an as-needed basis, they said.

Greenwood schools currently handles any questions or concerns about transgender students on an individual basis, Greenwood superintendent Kent DeKoninck said. For example, if a student needed an individual plan for which bathroom they will use, school administrators meet with the child, parent and building administrators to find the best solution, he said.

With the federal government guidance, Greenwood, Franklin and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson are waiting to see how this could affect schools in the coming months before changing or updating any policies, officials said.

“We’re not looking to do anything to make any statements in terms of what we do or what we don’t do,” DeKoninck said. “We’re going to work with the students and the parents and find a solution that works best for everyone.”

Franklin superintendent David Clendening and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson superintendent Tim Edsell have not known of any transgender students attending their schools who have asked for assistance with which restroom to use in the past. But if any students do, the superintendents will handle any concerns on a case-by-case basis, they said.

“If we have any student that requires special needs or accommodations, we’re going to treat them in a fair and equitable manner,” Edsell said.

Since the federal guidance was released near the end of the school year, administrators hope they receive more clarification this summer as to what each school district will be required to do by next school year.

But for now, school officials are trying to keep students focused on the end of the school year, then worry about the policy updates this summer, Clendening said.

“For all of our kids, we want a safe, secure learning environment, and we’re going to ensure that,” Clendening said.

What the policies say

Every Johnson County school district has to have a non-discrimination policy, and the current policy is being updated this summer to clarify language regarding transgender and sexual orientation:

The current policy:

The School Board does not discriminate on the basis of the Protected Classes of race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and transgender identity), disability, age, religion, military status, ancestry, genetic information (collectively, “Protected Classes”), or any other legally protected category, in its programs and activities, including employment opportunities.

The new policy:

The School Board does not discriminate on the basis of the Protected Classes of race, color, national origin, sex (including transgender status, sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, age, religion, military status, ancestry, or genetic information which are classes protected by Federal and/or State law (collectively, “Protected Classes”) occurring in the Corporation’s employment opportunities, programs and/or activities, or, if initially occurring off Corporation grounds or outside the Corporation’s employment opportunities, programs and activities, affecting the Corporation environment.

SOURCE: Local school districts’ policy and bylaws