Berkeley school district to review transgender, gender-nonconforming inclusivity policy

Martin Luther King Middle School
Katie Lee/Staff
The proposed policy addresses gender-segregated class activities, stating that schools within the district should minimize or remove the use of such segregation.

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A policy regarding transgender and gender-nonconforming students is set to be reviewed Thursday by the policy committee of Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD.

The policy’s main focuses are the “safety and happiness” of transgender and gender-nonconforming students, according to a Berkeley High Jacket article. It addresses several issues that transgender and gender-nonconforming students face, from joining competitive sports teams to using restrooms.

“The Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Policy is designed to support a safe and welcoming educational environment for every district student, allowing all students to learn in our schools while free from discrimination or stigma and regardless of their gender identity or expression,” said BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott in an email.

If passed, the policy would allow students to participate in interscholastic sports teams and physical education classes in a manner that corresponds with their gender identity, according to the text of the proposed policy. It also states that transgender and gender-nonconforming students should be given access to the locker rooms and restrooms that align with their gender identity.

If a student requests increased privacy, whether in a restroom or in a changing area, the proposed policy would give them alternative accommodations.

The proposed policy addresses gender-segregated class activities, stating that schools within the district should minimize or remove the use of such segregation. It would also protect transgender and gender-nonconforming students’ right to privacy about their identity.

Kaiyah Carlisle, vice president of the Alliance of Gender Expansive Students, or AGES, club at Berkeley High School, said they feel the policy is important but remains skeptical about the change it could bring.

“A lot of adults who have certain views, you know, it’s very hard for them to change their actions,” Carlisle said. “They can understand why it’s wrong, or understand that people are different from them, but actions, that’s a different story.”

Ruby Lim-Moreno, the president of AGES, said the policy includes great ideas and it is good to have it established in official policy so that it is mandatory, even if it has been an unofficial policy in the past.

However, Lim-Moreno said she also has reservations about the policy’s impacts because she has seen alleged issues involving transgender and gender-nonconforming students swept under the rug at BUSD.

Both Carlisle and Lim-Moreno claimed that they have seen discrimination at BUSD. Lim-Moreno, who identifies as transgender, said she was bullied in the past by both students and teachers in middle school.

BUSD strongly supports the Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Policy because its utmost priorities are the safety and well-being of students, according to McDermott.

“While there is already a comprehensive complaint process in place in our schools for students to report discrimination or harassment, this Policy will further affirm the District’s commitment to prioritize and highlight this issue in our school community,” McDermott said in an email in response to past allegations of discrimination at BUSD.

Despite past encounters, Lim-Moreno said she remains optimistic about the policy and is especially pleased that it addresses professional development.

More specifically, the proposed policy includes a plan to implement training for all staff members about gender identity and strategies to create a gender-inclusive environment.

“The Berkeley community has a long history of leadership in battling discrimination, and this Policy strongly aligns with our community values,” McDermott said in an email. “As a school district, we help all students rise when we assure them they will be free to express themselves and live authentically in our schools.”

Contact Audry Jeong and Natalie Lu at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed information to a Berkeley Unified School District press release. In fact, it was from a Berkeley High Jacket article.