NASHUA — Some people are concerned that parents might not be notified if their child changes their name or status as transgender or gender-nonconforming on school records, under a recently adopted policy.
By a vote of 5-3, the Board of Education approved the policy last week.
The policy states, in part, that “parents and/or students are encouraged to discuss with building administrators any issues that may arise in relation to a student’s transgender and nonconforming status, including but not limited to: privacy, official records, names and pronouns, restrooms, locker rooms, other gender-segregated facilities or activities, dress code and safety and support for transgender and transitioning students.”
School board member Raymond Guarino said the policy was vetted by the school district’s attorney and is consistent with state law.
“I would just like assurance, and I think it should be in the policy that if a student, a minor, has a change in mind, that it is not withheld from the parent,” said school board member Doris Hohensee.
The policy, as written, allows a student to change their gender preference and name on their school record without a parent being notified, according to Hohensee.
Parents should be informed so they can help their child through the transitional process, she said, stressing parents are ultimately responsible for their children.
“There are some legal complications in here,” she added.
Board of Education president Heather Raymond said the matter is complicated because parents are ultimately financially responsible for their children.
“But children also have some medical privacy when it comes to these types of issues — when it comes to anything regarding sex and sexuality, so we have to be very careful how we address these things,” Raymond said.
Ethical issues could arise if mental health services or special legal protections are involved, Raymond said. In such cases, the district is prohibited from interfering, she said.
Raymond said she understands that this may make many parents uncomfortable, but said in these types of sensitive matters the policy is in place to help parents and students come to administrators to share details on whether they are transitioning or have already transitioned.
“This is not about us inserting ourselves into the process,” she added.
A local parent, Scott Couture, said that while he wants to protect students of all genders, colors and religions, he said the new policy is too vague, which he said sparks worry.
“There seems to be no parent involvement whatsoever,” he said.
According to the policy, it is the responsibility of each school and the district to ensure that transgender and gender-nonconforming students have a safe school environment. Any incident of discrimination, harassment or violence is to be given immediate attention, and complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived transgender status or gender nonconformity are to be handled in the same manner as other discrimination or harassment complaints.
“A student will be considered transgender if, at school, they consistently assert a gender identity or expression different from that traditionally associated with assigned sex at birth … this involves more than a casual declaration of gender identity or expression, but it does not necessarily require a medical diagnosis,”the policy states.