New Hope-Solebury adopts policy to protect transgender students

New Hope-Solebury adopts policy to protect transgender students

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A Pennsylvania school district voted 6-1 to protect transgender students. The New Hope-Solebury School District officially adopted Policy 255, entitled “Gender Expansive and Transgender Students,” at a March 23 school-board meeting.

The policy includes guidelines on pronoun usage, privacy and confidentiality for transgender students, school records, facility access, school trips, dress codes, school activities, and education for teachers and administrators. Additionally, the policy outlines specific definitions for gender identity, gender expansive, gender expression, transgender, gender nonconforming and gender assigned at birth.

School Board President Neale Dougherty noted this policy was discussed prior to President Trump rescinding protections for transgender students.

“We as a district wanted to establish that and we wanted to establish those protections at the local level, and that’s why we wanted to adopt it as point of policy,” Dougherty said.

The school-board meeting included public comments from representatives of LGBT-friendly organizations.

“The only way to provide transgender students with the same educational opportunities as their peers is for schools and districts to adopt clear protections from discrimination and comprehensive policies that affirm the dignity, worth and identities of transgender people,” a letter presented by the Human Rights Campaign stated. “From respecting students’ names and pronouns to ensuring equal access to facilities and programs, these policies help ensure that.”

Equality Pennsylvania, an organization promoting LGBT equality, was involved in reviewing the policy. At the meeting, community resident Geri Delevich read a letter from Equality PA Executive Director Ted Martin.

“Please vote ‘yes’ on this proposed policy and do it knowing you are making young lives better and ensuring a stronger future for all of us,” Martin wrote.

He told PGN the school board should be commended for adopting this policy to make “a better learning experience for transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”

“The more commonplace [these policies] become, the more commonplace transgender and gender-nonconforming people become [recognized] in society,” Martin said. “Once people are treated fairly and equally, it becomes part of the routine that people will have better experiences. Laws also change culture and, I think in this instance, laws will hopefully change culture in a better way too.”

Delevich brought the policy forward three years ago as an LGBT liaison for New Hope, but she withheld it from school-board meetings after receiving little community support. She introduced the policy again in December after a school-board member came under fire from the community. Douglas McDonough, the board member, posted a Facebook status seemingly criticizing people who wear safety pins to convey solidarity for individuals who could be marginalized because of Trump.

McDonough wrote that the pins “might come in handy as a suture for any lacerations you get when you are macro-aggressively punched in the face for being such a slactivist jackass.”

“It was a wonderful feeling to know that even more of our students and hopefully now all of our students will feel that they can get a quality education in a very safe environment and be treated equally and respectfully by all,” Delevich said. 

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