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Shenendehowa School District Approves Controversial Bathroom Policy

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A Capital Region school district has approved a new bathroom policy to accommodate transgendered students. The plan has energized supporters and opponents.

At a crowded meeting Tuesday evening, the Shenendehowa school board approved a measure 4-2 to allow students on a case-by-case basis to use the bathroom and locker room facilities that reflect the gender they identify with.

The district in Clifton Park, in Southern Saratoga County, is attended by nearly 10,000 students.

The issue of schools accommodating transgendered students is becoming increasingly prevalent. This week, a Maine court ordered a district to pay the family of a transgendered student $75,000 as part of a discrimination lawsuit.

Shen school board president Bill Casey said the new policy does not allow boys and girls to freely use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

“We can’t ask our administrators to manage and operate our schools without policy guidance from us, and we believe that having this policy which allows for case-by-case review with significant documentation required and review by staff is the proper way to go,” said Casey.

At Tuesday’s meeting, concerned parents lined up to ask the question, “Why here, why now?”

“25 years ago if anybody brought this up they would be laughed out of the county.”

But one parent, Deb Vincent, supported the measure, as heard on TWC News.

“It’s an amazing thing when we open up and show – oh my God, I’m going to cry – when we open up and show true acceptance of what other people are. And it is the saddest thing that I just spent twenty minutes waiting in line – at the end of a line – waiting for one person to actually say that.”

As listed on the district’s website the policy states that A student shall not be required to use a locker room or bathroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity exclusively and consistently asserted at school.”

Requests for accommodations will only be considered at the high school level and must be submitted to the superintendent.

Documentation that may be considered — but is not limited to —  includes records of specific medical treatment, counseling, therapy, and an official change of name and gender on a birth certificate.

The party may also appeal a decision to the board of education.

Again, board president Bill Casey.

“We’re not looking to be trailblazers or be politically correct. We’re trying to come up with a practical policy that recognizes, in some cases current practice, that is somebody comes in with a special need and wants to use a private bathroom, we will make an accommodation, and that’s covered in this policy as well, but we also wanted to be clear on this. This is an emerging public issue,” said Casey.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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