Arlington School Committee Commits To Requiring Students Be Called By Preferred Pronouns and Allowing Access To Bathrooms and Locker Rooms According To Gender Identity

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Arlington School Committee members have laid the foundation this past week for policies ensuring students are called by their preferred pronouns in any circumstance and allowing students to play sports with the sex with which they identify.

“It is about making safe spaces for children, and as a former principal with a kid who was transitioning at grade three, I know how important this is,” committee vice chairman Paul Schlichtman said during a meeting on Thursday, June 15

“I believe that we need to resolve our commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community,” school committee member Liz Exton said.

Schlichtman and Exton could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening, shortly after the school district published a video of the meeting online.

During that meeting, the school committee adopted a resolution on a 6-0 vote directing the Policies and Procedures Subcommittee to draft “gender-affirming policies.”

These policies include “ensuring all students and staff are called by their requested names and pronouns without requiring a legal name change or medical diagnosis.”

Students would also be allowed to access facilities, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, that provide for the student or staff’s “gender expression.” At least one gender-neutral bathroom, which either sex can use, would be provided on school property.

All extracurricular activities, including sports, would be open to students “according to their gender indentity,” which means that someone who identifies as a girl would be able to play on girl’s sports teams, regardless of biological sex.

In addition to these policies, the resolution calls for training for school district employees to build an “LGBTQIA+ affirming atmosphere.”

During the meeting, Exton recognized the work accomplished already. “However,” she said, “until every staff member in every school, in every department, is affirming of our students and is aware of how to support our students and ensures that every student in our school feels safe, welcomed, and included, then the work is not done.”

School committee member Laura Gitelson said that if supporting the resolution “can even have the smallest positive effect on the mental health of Arlington’s school community, I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that.”

Gitelson could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

She continued:  “Until every queer staff member feels safe and supported in our schools, the work is not done. Until every queer family in our town feels safe and a sense of belonging, the work is not done.”

The Policies and Procedures Subcommittee is due to submit recommendations to the full school committee by Thursday, October 12.

The Arlington LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission, a town board that is designed in part “to promote equality-affirming policies regarding the full spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities,” celebrated the town school committee’s adoption of the resolution.

The Rainbow Commission in its Sunday, June 18 newsletter called the resolution “remarkable” and “first-in-the-Commonwealth” for committing to ensure “that all teachers and staff use the name and pronouns of transgender and nonbinary students without the need to show any medical documents and that trans/nonbinary kids can participate in school sports according to their gender identity.”


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