Education

Olympia School Board talks transgender student policy updates

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OLYMPIA  – In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQIA+ workers from job discrimination nationwide, the Olympia School Board (OSB), the governing body of the Olympia School District, talked about its own transgender student policy.

“It’s a very auspicious day to be looking at this policy with the Supreme Court ruling,” said OSB director Maria Flores during Monday night’s remote work session. “We’re trying to update our policy from when it was adopted to some of the more current definitions.”

According to Flores, the Olympia School Board adopted a policy protecting transgender students before the state required schools to adopt such a policy. She added the state passed a bill in 2020, Substitute Senate Bill 5689, which required school districts to adopt a policy to keep transgender students from being bullied or harassed in school. 

“It shows just how supportive we are of our students’ civil rights,” said Flores, who presented the policy change proposal to the board. 

The policy updates would reflect current definitions of certain terms like gender non-conforming and non-binary, two terms that are not in the current district policy as it now stands. 

“Understanding that gender identity is a continuum, a spectrum, we wanted to have the most inclusive terms in there,” Flores said. 

Another policy update under discussion included listing a primary contact or district-wide “point person” who families and students can talk to if they have concerns. The suggestions to the district’s current policy stemmed from a model policy drafted by nationwide organization GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQIA+ youth. The model policy is meant to give guidance to school districts that grapple with their own policies towards gender non-conforming and transgender students. 

“We want to make sure all students are protected and safe in school and have their rights protected for gender identity and expression,” said Flores. 

Flores and other board members said they would be open to feedback from others, especially students, about any changes to the district’s policy. 

“There are multiple definitions and some are agreed upon, but there’s a continuum of definitions and I want to make sure we’re responsive on something that’s so crucial. I don’t want to make assumptions,” Flores added.

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