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The Stafford County School Board will again discuss establishing a policy that would protect transgender students and staff from discrimination in county schools.

At a work session Tuesday, Superintendent Scott Kizner and board members Jamie Decatur and Sarah Chase proposed revisions to the division’s existing nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and anti-retaliation policy designed to make it more inclusive and applicable to staff as well as students.

In addition to race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin and political affiliation, the revised policy would state that the board will not discriminate against any person on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or genetic information.”

The revised nondiscrimination policy would replace the “Gender Identity and Expression” policy proposed by Kizner late last year, following an October incident in which a transgender girl at a county middle school was prevented from entering the girls’ or boys’ locker rooms during a lockdown drill.

That proposal stated specific ways schools should accommodate transgender students, such as honoring students’ requested names and gender pronouns, permitting students to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with their gender identities and providing alternative options to any student, transgender or not, who desires more privacy.

The revised nondiscrimination policy discussed Tuesday does not include these specific measures for protecting transgender students, but “gives us a pathway to have a greater conversation with the community,” Kizner said.

“The policy I presented [in December] got into very specific steps that I don’t believe the board or the majority of the community was ready to embrace,” Kizner said at Tuesday’s work session. “This policy makes a clear statement to the community that we accept everyone and we will take the steps necessary to help our staff and students.”

He added that these steps could eventually lead to the adoption of a new policy in line with what he proposed last year.

School division staff consulted with other Virginia school divisions about their nondiscrimination policies to come up with the language presented Tuesday, Kizner said.

“The majority of the language of the change was replicated from Loudoun County Public Schools,” he said. “Prince William has a very similar policy. Fairfax has its own variation. Arlington in June will adopt a policy more consistent with what I presented back in the fall.”

The board put aside adoption of a policy protecting transgender students earlier this year to focus on redistricting and budget issues.

At the work session Tuesday, board member Irene Egan said she still doesn’t have answers to questions she raised during those earlier discussions, such as what such a policy would cost to implement and whether it opens the school division to legal action.

Kizner said the division could be sued with or without a policy.

“I would just advise you that I don’t want to make recommendations to you solely based on worry about being sued,” he said. “I’m going to always base my recommendations to the board on what I believe is in the best interest of our students and staff.”

The board’s work session on the revised policy was cut short because a prior closed meeting ran long.

During public comments at the regular board meeting, one parent said it appears the board is trying to “covertly slip some important policy changes in at the end of the year when no one’s here.”

Decatur apologized for the appearance of being covert.

“I’ve just been asking for [this policy] for a lot of months now, and we did have some other really important things going on and we didn’t want to sneak it in then,” she said.

“We’re going to work throughout the summer while everybody else is taking their vacations. I would really, really hate to see another incident happen with student and staff who are still not prepared to handle incidents at school with any of our children. The time is now and in the upcoming months.”

The board will schedule another full work session on the proposed revisions to the nondiscrimination policy and take action this summer.

Board member Dewayne McOsker suggested Tuesday that the work session be televised for the community.

Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973 @flsadele

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