Education

Student Transgender Policy At Center Of Decatur School Debate

Decatur’s policy for the past decade ensures its schools won't discriminate based on a student’s race, age, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. But it’s up to the City Schools of Decatur’s superintendent to interpret how that policy should be enacted.
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Decatur’s Board of Education announced at Tuesday night’s meeting that it’s considering reviewing its policy on transgender students.

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Decatur’s policy for the past decade ensures its schools won’t discriminate based on a student’s race, age, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. But it’s up to the City Schools of Decatur’s superintendent to interpret how that policy should be enacted.

The current superintendent, David Dude, penned a memo last year allowing for students to use school facilities and participate in school activities based on the gender they identify with.

Now there’s an online petition asking the board to change the policy. The push is to separate students by anatomy instead of gender because of privacy concerns. The petition argues Dude’s memo was not submitted for public review and issued “these new guidelines” in the dark.

“I don’t think it’s likely that the policy would be revised to take away any of the rights that our transgender students currently have,” said Annie Caiola, who chairs the Decatur school board. Instead, Caiola said any revision would likely clarify the school board’s support of all its students.

That’s in line with a statement the school board issued last month saying “it supports the Superintendent’s instructions to staff regarding transgender students.”

CSD also said it plans to have community discussions about the subject.

“It’s my hope that as we have those conversations people will start to feel a little less fear on a topic they don’t understand completely right now and start to feel a stronger desire to accept and embrace everyone in our community,” Caiola said.

According to Decaturish, there’s uncertainty about who’s behind the petition. There have been no reports of trouble caused by the policy, and the majority of the 100-plus signatures are from outside Decatur.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revoked federal protections for transgender students. But the issue is still up in the air until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether transgender students are protected under Title IX.

So for now, that decision lies with individual school districts.