Gardner Edgerton School District approves new policies targeting transgender students
Last Monday, the Gardner Edgerton School District approved an oppressive measure against transgender students. The school board approved the policy in a 5-2 vote which prevents transgender students from using their preferred restroom, locker rooms, and competing in sports divisions that align with their gender identity.
The initial proposal in July would have required students and staff to use names, pronouns, and restrooms in accordance with the information provided on their birth certificates, but was revised after heavy criticism from the ACLU of Kansas. The organization declared the measure as a potential violation of federal antidiscrimination law and inciting harassment against students and employees.
In a September letter to the school district, the ACLU of Kansas addressed safety concerns for students, writing, “Trans youth in schools with inclusive policies report lower suicide, greater school safety, and higher grades. Conversely, when anti-transgender policies—like the proposed policy at issue—are introduced, debated, and passed, trans youth report experiencing negative mental health effects and increased suicide attempts.”
The current policy states that students should be addressed using their preferred name and pronouns after notifying a district administrator or counselor. However, the district also requires that parents of underage students be notified of the change, a measure that could lead to unsafe living situations for the students.
Kansas offers little protection for transgender youth and is among a handful of states to introduce anti-transgender legislation this past year. Gardner Edgerton school district’s new policy further perpetuates discrimination against transgender individuals in the state.
D.C. Hiegert, an LGBTQ+ Legal Fellow for the ACLU of Kansas, says, “USD 231 students deserve better than this. At every school board meeting where this policy was debated, students showed up and told the board they did NOT want this policy. And yet, here we are. With a hateful policy, adopted against the will of the students it directly impacts.”
The school board also voted 5-2 against $80,000 in funds for unisex and ADA-complaint bathrooms. The proposed funds would have been directed toward accommodations following the policy change.