This fall, the Kenai Peninsula School District’s Board of Education will address whether or not to add the terms “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to its policy on nondiscrimination of students.
The discussion over how schools treat transgender students has been a hotbutton topic this year as a number of states across the U.S. have passed bills prohibiting people from using a restroom that is not the same as the gender listed on their birth certificates.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Policy Review Committee first proposed the language revisions in May. The board then decided to postpone further discussion until its August meeting, according to Pegge Erkeneff, school district spokesperson.
Policy currently reads: “District programs and activities shall be free from discrimination with respect to gender, race, color, religion, national origin, ethnic group, marital or parental status, and physical or mental disability.”
At Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, Kenai Peninsula resident Scott Coffman said he was concerned the “transgender policy revision” had already been made. Coffman referred to the policy changes with a name commonly used by members of the public and local officials, though the exact term “transgender” doesn’t appear in the policy. Transgender is a term for people whose self-identity is opposite of their assigned sex.
“That item wouldn’t even be discussed until school starts again,” said Joe Arness, board president. “You will know when it’s happening, I can very well assure you.”
Dan Castimore, board member and policy committee chair, said site council meetings will be held at schools in each area so that the public will have the chance to comment and participate at the local level.
Also in the proposed policy changes is the replacement of “gender” with “sex” in the clauses concerning separate arrangements made for students during sex education programs and physical education activities involving bodily contact, and that staff and volunteers take care to guard against discrimination and stereotyping in instruction, guidance and supervision.
The revisions align with and make legal references to Alaska Statute, which use the term “sex” instead of “gender” when outlining policy for access to academic courses, guidance and counseling programs, athletic programs, testing procedures, vocational education and other activities, which are also addressed in board policy.
Arness added the revision process would likely take some time.
“We’re not hiding anything,” he said to the audience Monday. “We are going to try to be as open and transparent about it as we can.”
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