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Parent-teacher group endorses gender-identity policy for Buffalo Public Schools

The Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization has endorsed the school district’s draft of a student gender-identity policy.

The policy would, among other steps, allow a transgender or gender-nonconforming student to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the student’s consistently expressed gender identity at school.

“We understand that this policy may be controversial for some and may conflict with religious beliefs; however, as an organization which values diversity, we believe that our transgender youth have a right to attend our schools feeling accepted and socially and emotionally safe,” wrote BPTO co-chairman Larry Scott in a press release.

The BPTO also launched an online petition in support of the proposal, urging the School Board to adopt the policy.

The organization will ask Mayor Byron W. Brown and the Common Council to endorse the gender-identity policy, as well.

“All students have a right to a free and just education without any forms of discrimination,” said co-chairperson Roberta Cates.

The draft, recently presented to the School Board, covers dress codes, how school records will be maintained, and participation in physical education classes and various sports.

The restroom portion of the draft has proved the most controversial.

Various public speakers have voiced their opposition during recent School Board meetings. They say such a policy could leave other students vulnerable to predators and abuse and could make other students feel uncomfortable. One speaker suggested the district designate a separate restroom just for transgender students.

BPTO members reviewed the proposed policy during a business meeting last month, and even though the group as a whole supports the plan, the controversy is not lost on them.

The draft policy states students requesting increased privacy or other accommodations when using bathrooms and locker rooms will be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, but students will not be required to use that alternative.

The organization suggested two minor changes to the school district’s proposal, including adding a central office staffer and/or department to ensure the policy is implemented at each school.

The proposed policy was presented to the board just prior to President Obama’s announcement in May instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches the gender with which they identify.

The president’s directive is not a mandate. It guides public schools grappling with how to assimilate transgender students. But some believe that schools that do otherwise could lose their federal funding.

Will Keresztes, the district’s chief of intergovernmental affairs, planning and community engagement, hopes to have a plan approved by the board and in place by the time school begins in the fall.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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