graphic by Beau Cameron
In 2019, the District of Columbia’s public school system will apply a third gender marker on their enrollment forms, allowing students to select “non-binary” rather than male or female when indicating the child’s gender.
Almost all public school districts in Maryland and the D.C. region include gender identity as a protected class in their non-discrimination policies. Now, at least three local school districts– Arlington Public Schools, D.C. Public Schools, and Alexandria City Public Schools–are actively working to support these students, starting with recognizing them on the student enrollment form.
In 2018, Arlington Public Schools added a new question on its form for students to indicate a designated gender, including male, female, and X. Alexandria City Public Schools is adding a space for preferred name and gender identity in the district’s online form.
Frederick County should be the next on this list.
Gender identity is listed as a protected group in FCPS schools, along with race, religion, disability, etc. FCPS has also stated that it does not tolerate bullying based on sex, gender-identity, or sexual orientation.
In June of 2017, FCPS implemented policy 443, outlining the rights of transgender students. According to the policy, students have the right to access facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, corresponding with the appropriate gender. Students have the right to participate in any athletic event or activity according to their gender identity. (i.e. field day, track meets, physical education classes, etc.)
Every students also has a right to be referred to by the appropriate name and pronouns. Teachers have an updated list of correct names and pronouns for each student, and they are expected to provide substitutes with class lists that includes this information.
Section 1 of the policy outline states, “The purpose of this policy is to prevent discrimination, stigmatization, harassment, and bullying of students who are transgender or who are gender nonconforming and to create school cultures that are safe, welcoming, and affirming for all students. This policy is also designed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to express themselves and live authentically.”
Including a third gender marker on enrollment forms is the next logical step from policy 443. Doing so is an important aspect in recognizing the validity of all students, regardless of gender.
Nonbinary, intersex, and transgender students will no longer have to make the compromise of selecting a gender designation that doesn’t align with their true identity. They’ll be able to experience the affirmation that arises from being legally acknowledged and being able to be visible as their most authentic selves.
Linganore graduate and advocate Shayden Jamison said, “I think it’s important for FCPS to implement more trans-inclusive policies because they need to protect their students. LGBTQ+ students, and Transgender students specifically, are often big targets for bullying and harassment within schools. By instating simple policies for this demographic, FCPS can create a healthier educational environment for everyone.”
I propose that FCPS implement policies similar to Arlington Public Schools, D.C. Public Schools, and Alexandria City Public Schools. There should be two spaces on the enrollment form: one for sex, which is based on reproductive organs, and a second space for gender, wherein there are at least three options, male, female, and non-binary. Furthermore, there should be a section included where students can write their preferred name, so that the correct name will appear on their official school documents.
This solution would meet federal reporting requirements (that necessitate a student’s sex be recorded) and accommodate the needs of Frederick County’s transgender students.
Under the State guidelines, requests for name and/or gender marker changes on official school records require the legal guardian to submit an amended birth certificate with the name and gender marker change, a court order changing the student’s name, or a statement signed by a healthcare practitioner who treated or evaluated the student for issues related to gender identity, requesting that the student name and/or gender marker be made on the official school record and explaining the health-related reasons for the request.
This solution does not undermine this ruling, but rather allows students an avenue to have their gender identity respected even if they are in unsupportive homes, as many transgender youth are. By doing this, Frederick County will not only be an ally to its students in word, but through action.
(A non-binary student, hoping for your support)
This story was originally published on The Lance on January 22, 2019.