The largest school district in Vermont formally approved new guidelines that required schools to accommodate students based on their gender identity and not their biological sex.
The Champlain Valley School District serves approximately 4,000 students. Under the new guidelines, the schools will not inform parents if their students opt to use alternative pronouns or names. The school district will also allow transgender-identifying students to compete on sports teams or use sex-segregated school facilities based on their gender identity.
“It is the policy of the Champlain Valley School District to provide a safe, inclusive, equitable, civil, and positive learning environment for all students regardless of perceived or actual sex, gender identity, or gender expression,” states new guidelines, titled Code F38.
School staff members are required to “respect any requests to use a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records” and students are not required to “obtain a court-ordered name and/or gender change or to change their student records as a prerequisite to being addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.”
“A school can best support a transgender or nonbinary student by involving the student regarding how and what information about the student is shared within the school, and between the school and the student’s home,” wrote CVSD. “Schools will develop a plan for information-sharing that supports the student, while balancing a parent’s right to information. To the extent possible and consistent with all competing legal requirements, school personnel will endeavor throughout to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s gender identity.”
When making determinations about gender-segregated facilities like locker rooms or bathrooms, schools are directed to consider “maximizing social integration of the transgender or nonbinary student,” “minimizing stigmatization of the transgender or nonbinary student,” “ensuring equal opportunity to participate,” as well as the age of the student.
“Any student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy will be provided with reasonable alternative arrangements,” added the school district. “Reasonable alternative arrangements may include the use of a private area, a separate changing schedule, or the use of a single-stall restroom.”
The guidelines were first proposed in September and reveal how the district intends to comply with a 2017 guidance issued by Vermont’s Agency of Education on gender-fluid or transgender-identifying students.
Angela Arsenault, the chair of the CVSD school board, told Seven Days the formally adopted guidelines codify the practices already in place at the district’s six schools.
“There’s such a really dangerous and negative movement in the country broadly — not so much in Vermont, but we’re not immune to the pressures and even coordinated campaigns that take place in other states and other districts,” Arsenault told the VT Digger in September. “We have our equity policy, but we couldn’t say that it explicitly addresses any concerns that might come up around transgender students and gender non-conforming students. We felt it was important to do that.”