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Buffalo school district seeks more public input for gender-identity policy

Buffalo Public Schools officials continue to reach out for feedback this summer on its proposed gender-identify policy that dictates how transgender students enrolled in the district are treated.

An information session will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts located at 450 Masten Ave.

Another is scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Frank E. Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.

The draft proposal, which was presented to the school board last April, covers topics such as dress codes, how school records will be maintained and participation in physical education classes and various sports.

It would 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. Gender nonconforming describes one who does not conform to social or stereotypical expectations of a person with that gender assigned at birth.

The Board of Education’s sample boilerplate further states that any student requesting increased privacy or other accommodations when using bathrooms and locker rooms will be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, but they will not be required to use that alternative.

The restroom portion of the school district’s draft has proved to be the most controversial. Several 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.

Last month, the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization endorsed the proposal, including adding a central office staffer and/or department to ensure the policy is implemented at each school. BPTO also launched an online petition in support of the proposal, urging the school board to adopt the policy, which 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.

District administrators hope to have a School Board-approved plan in place by the time school begins in the fall, said Will Keresztes, the district’s chief of Intergovernmental Affairs, Planning and Community Engagement.


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