Stafford schools (copy)

The School Board will discuss the superintendent’s revised transgender policy at a meeting Tuesday night.

Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner recently struck some of the more controversial language in his proposed policy on the treatment of transgender students.

But he also wants to bolster the crux of the highly debated proposal, which would let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identities.

Kizner’s latest draft removes language stating that administrators and counselors may “foster an understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students.” The change is meant to ease some parents’ concerns that schools would indoctrinate their children.

At the same time, Kizner proposes strengthening wording that previously said schools “should” address transgender students by their preferred pronouns and let them use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. He replaced “should” with “shall,” which Kizner said in an email “basically means you must do it.”

“Should implies that you have an option to do it or not do it,” Kizner added. “Board members made this observation, and I agree.”

He unveiled the first draft of the proposed policy at a meeting last month, but some School Board members said they want more input from the community before taking action. The School Board will discuss the latest proposal Tuesday, but is not scheduled to adopt a policy until next month at the earliest. Kizner said in a report that he will continue gathering feedback from stakeholders.

The policy would be the first of its kind in Virginia, though some schools statewide already let transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice despite a lack of formal guidelines.

Kizner’s recommendation stems from a widely criticized incident Sept. 28 in which an unidentified county middle school prevented a transgender girl from joining her classmates in the girls’ or boys’ locker room during an active-shooter drill. The girl sat alone in a nearby hallway because she is transgender, according to Equality Stafford, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

The School Board voted three years ago to prohibit the same transgender girl, then a Hartwood Elementary School student, from using the girls’ restroom. Hartwood previously let her use the girls’ bathroom, but some parents complained that allowing students to go to the restroom of their gender identity opened the door for sexual predators and violated other students’ privacy rights.

Kizner’s new draft adds language stating that schools will notify the parents of elementary or middle-schoolers who express discomfort with the policy. The parties would “discuss available options” for the students, such as using single-stall restrooms or putting “privacy partitions” in locker rooms.

Concerned high-schoolers could meet with administrators and counselors, who “may address the discomfort by providing the student with the opportunity to use an alternative option that is made available to any student who desires more privacy,” according to the draft policy.

Kizner’s proposed policy previously stated that any concerned student could meet with administrators or counselors, who in turn may “foster an understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students.” Kizner deleted that language after objections from some School Board members and parents.

Some LGBT advocates say the policy would make the county’s public schools inclusive for all students and put Stafford on the right side of history. They note the high suicide rates among transgender high-schoolers who often feel ostracized at school.

Others say they do not view transgender people as sexual predators, but raised concerns about their daughters seeing male genitalia in locker rooms.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

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