Flagler Schools staff will explain the district's procedures regarding transgender students during an upcoming School Board workshop.
Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt agreed to have her staff prepare a presentation after several members of the public, during a March 23 board workshop's public comment period, said they were angry about transgender students being permitted to access bathrooms that align with their gender identity rather than their sex at birth.
The board's most recent action concerning transgender students, a 3-2 vote in December to add "gender identity" to the district nondiscrimination policy's existing list of protected characteristics such as race, religion and sexual orientation, didn't address specifics such as bathrooms or locker rooms — in fact, over the course of the year-long board debate about the subject, much of the board opposition to adding the language centered around opponents' argument that transgender students were already covered under the existing inclusion of the word "gender," making the addition of the words "gender identity" an unnecessary step that would gin up controversy but have little practical effect.
But School Board member Jill Woolbright said at the March 23 workshop that community members and staff members have expressed concerns to her about how the addition of "gender identity" to the nondiscrimination policy affects bathroom use, locker room use, and the procedures to be followed when a student transitions. She suggested that the district explain its procedures, for clarity's sake.
"I've had staff reach out to me as to how that is to go about, so I just want to make sure that our procedures are known to everyone, that they have been rolled out clearly," Woolbright said. "I found out about the plan and some protocols that we have, evidently, in place from outside of the school system. So I just want to make sure that we're clear. I want to make sure that all parties are feeling protected, as the community has spoken today, as well as the groups that we included the verbiage so that they are protected — so that all people are satisfied in the community that we are making sure that all students are safe and secure."
School Board member Cheryl Massaro agreed that an explanation would be helpful.
"I think part of the issue is the lack of information that's out there, and it's creating a buzz," Massaro said. "Perhaps when we get the information ... it might help."
Massaro, along with board members Colleen Conklin and Trevor Tucker, had voted in favor of adding the words "gender identity" to the nondiscrimination policy, while Woolbright and board member Janet McDonald had voted against.
Woolbright said she's heard community concerns about children seeking transgender-related accommodations without informing their own parents.
Mittelstadt said the law impacts what the district can say in such cases.
"Those are delicate conversations, and we are obligated by statute on how we deliver that," Mittelstadt said.
Mittelstadt said that school staff and principals have been briefed on the transgender-related school procedures and that staff will update the School Board at an upcoming information workshop.