A Clark County School Board meeting Thursday night about the district’s draft of a gender-diverse policy drew more of the same — large crowds and heated commentary from both community members and trustees — but no final decision will be made until August at the earliest.
The hours-long meeting served as the first look at the policy, the creation of which has been a debate for nearly a year. In March, a split board voted to have district staff draft a policy that would give principals more guidance about how to address the needs of transgender students.
The eight-page policy would be referenced on a case-by-case basis when a student identifies as transgender, triggering creation of a “gender support plan” for the child. Topics include confidentiality concerns, preferred pronouns and restroom use, among others. The proposed policy also states the district would train staff on the needs of gender-diverse students.
Holly Welborn, policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, largely praised the policy. The organization is one of several that have been pushing for such a policy in Clark County.
“Until this passes, our transgender students are living in a school environment where they don’t have equal rights,” she said. “That’s why this policy is so important.”
But dozens of parents testified in opposition, saying the proposed policy infringes on their rights as well as their religious or moral beliefs. They fear students whose beliefs differ could wind up being punished, for instance, if they use the wrong pronoun for a transgender student.
Erin Phillips, president of Power 2 Parent, reiterated a longstanding frustration shared by many of the opponents — that parent voices have been stifled in this process. (One woman who spoke identified herself as an “oppressed mom” for that reason.)
“There was an agenda from the beginning,” Phillips said.
Greta Peay, chief instructional services officer, clarified a variety of concerns, including the process for overnight field trips. She said if the transgender student wants to room with a peer of the gender he or she identifies with, school officials would ask the transgender student’s parents if they have permission to notify and seek permission from the other student’s family.
If either party says no, other accommodations will be made, she said. No students will be forced to share a room with someone if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
The situation illustrates the tricky balancing act of any gender-diverse policy, satisfying the concerns of all students and families involved.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-3 to approve changes discussed Thursday night, including language clarifications and bolstering the idea of protections for the entire student body, not just transgender students. Trustees Linda Young, Chris Garvey and Kevin Child cast the opposition votes.
The vote, however, doesn’t cement the policy. The draft will come back to the board — most likely at the Aug. 9 meeting — for more discussion, public comment and perhaps a final vote. If approved, the district then would begin creating a related regulation, offering more details, as well as guidelines. The regulation would need board approval, too.
Senate Bill 225 requires the state to provide a regulation that ensures a safe and respectful learning environment for students with diverse gender identities and expressions. The Nevada Department of Education approved a statewide regulation last month, which is pending final approval from the legislative commission.
Young said she couldn’t support the draft because she wanted more community collaboration and agreement on it.
“We’ve got to come together for all the children,” she said. “This policy has a divisive component.”
Trustee Carolyn Edwards, a proponent of the policy, acknowledged that it has been a “difficult process” while also making the case for moving forward.
“I believe we will be sued if we do nothing and if we do something, so the argument that we’re going to be sued, for me, is moot,” she said. “We will be sued one way or another. This will play out in court.”