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Transgender Discrimination Policy Weighed in Howard County Schools

'There’s more awareness [now] of gender identity issues. We want to make sure we’re staying current.’ – spokeswoman Patti Caplan

Howard County school leaders are discussing how to add more protections to transgender students in the district’s discrimination policy, spurred in part by the advocacy of a mother of a student born as a boy but who identifies as a girl.

Discussions over how to navigate transgender issues in the schools follow the debates that have recently occurred in several counties in Maryland.

The Howard County school district currently extends gender identity protections in its bullying policies. That language will “probably be added” to the district’s discrimination policy, which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability, age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation in its educational programs and in the workplace, said school spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

She said she is unsure of the timeline.

“We work with harassment and discrimination on a daily basis, so you need to be looking at all of the situations that can arise, and try to address all the concerns up front,” Caplan said.

In 2008, the last time the discrimination policy was updated, gender identity was not discussed, she said.

“There’s more awareness [now] of gender identity issues,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re staying current.”

Caplan said Lisa Boarman, the coordinator of school counseling, is leading discussions on transgender student protections, working with Linda Wise, the schools’ chief academic officer, and general counsel Mark Blom, among other school administration officials.

The district leaders are in the midst of discussing how new protections for transgender students could translate to restroom usage, among other issues, Caplan said.

District officials are also working on guidelines to help guidance counselors work with transgender youth, Caplan said.

It’s still unclear what entity has jurisdiction over rules regarding transgender students and sports.

Caplan referred questions about whether transgender students could join sports teams of their identified gender to Maryland athletic officials. Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletics Association, referred questions back to Howard County schools, which he said was developing a policy.

Counties have also been tackling issues this year regarding transgender residents.

approved a bill that provides legal protection to transgender residents. The bill makes it illegal to engage in discriminatory practices against transgender individuals with regard to housing, employment and accommodations. Montgomery County adopted a similar measure. Baltimore County became the latest, passing such a measure this month in a split vote.

The county protections do not extend to students in school. Howard County schools do not come under county government jurisdiction, said C. Vernon Gray, administrator at the Howard County Office of Human Rights.

Howard County is unique regionally in its discussion to add gender identity protections to its school discrimination policy. School officials said they were unaware of discussions of that nature going on in either Baltimore or Carroll counties. Montgomery County also does not include gender identity in the discrimination portion of its human relations policy.

Caplan said Howard County school discussions were spurred in part by the advocacy work of Catherine Hyde, whose daughter, Will Gullucci, was a transgender student at Marriotts Ridge High School.

“I think she has really helped to increase our awareness of some of the issues that are faced by transgender people in general to make sure it’s on our radar,” Caplan said of Hyde.

Hyde, of Woodstock, made headlines last year when her daughter, who had come out as a transgender person leading the life of a girl, complained about a police training video shown to students on teenage drunken driving. The video  included an unnecessary photo of a man dressed as a woman, Gallucci said at the time.

Hyde then complained to the Howard County police department, eventually leading to the incorporation of transgender issues into the department's  training, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Hyde also that was passed in Howard County.

Hyde, who is also the transgender coordinator for the PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter in Columbia and Howard County, said there is too much focus on bathrooms in discussions on transgender protections.

“It’s not the big deal we think it is,” she said. “We get pathologically focused on body parts. … We’re scared boys are going in the girls bathroom. My child is not a boy; my child is a girl. She passes. If I sent her to a boy’s bathroom, she’d be at such a high risk, it would be a ridiculous.”

Her daughter, Gullucci, who has kept her birth name, is currently a freshman at  Towson University, Hyde said.

Opponents of bills aimed at outlawing discrimination against transgender individuals have raised concerns about the safety of women and children who could be preyed upon in public restrooms by a predator posing as a transgendered person.

"If you make a law, then people will want to misuse the benefits of it," said . "It's not the transgendered issue I'm worried about, it's everybody else."

Baltimore County council members dealt with the bathroom concerns this way: used in similar laws in Howard and Montgomery counties that protects businesses from discrimination lawsuits for setting their own rules governing "facilities that are distinctly private and personal."

In Howard County, Hyde applauded school administrators for their commitment to students.

“I also know it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said of transgender protection policies. “They also have to have their ducks in a row; they have to get on the same page themselves. In the meantime, I know they are committed to keeping these kids safe.”

Michael February 28, 2012 at 08:13 PM
When is all this gay marriage, transgender, legalize illegal aliens silliness going to end? What's next...polygamy, allowing siblings to marry, or legalizing incest and bestiality? Where is the line drawn between what is a civil right, and what is just plain wrong?
Chef February 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Michael you're and idiot. How many shades of red is your neck. Gay or transgender is not a crime. People like you should be locked away. Racism should be a crime on all costs.
Corey Andrews February 28, 2012 at 11:22 PM
We should ask ourselves one important question. Who are the ones discriminating? If the students or teachers are the ones discriminating, it would already be covered under numerous school policies.
Avon Barksdale February 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Ugh, great. I can't wait for 50 years from now when people who think they are dolphins born in the bodies of humans get full protection under the law. Give me a break. Not everybody is normal and not everything is acceptable.
Michael February 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Chef, I have a question. Why do people like you who disagree with the opinions of others always reply with name calling and ridiculous threats? I did not say that being gay or transgender was a crime, although the preferred sexual persuasion of gay men - buggery - is still illegal in 14 states. I simply asked a question...a very legitimate question....about where do we, as a society, draw the line? And why would you think I'm a racist, which I'm not? Being gay or transgendered has nothing to do with race. Honestly, it's ignorant proclaimations like yours that often make the poster appear dim-witted.
Chef March 01, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Michael, In your own word: silliness. Then to point out of acts that are actual crimes, then compare them to the issue at hand. None of which are crimes. Sure points to you looking more dim witted. While my choice of words may not reflect wisdom, your choice simply looks like hatred, as opposed to the opinion you so kindly offer as your explanation.
O.P. Ditch March 02, 2012 at 11:40 AM
from above: "how to add more protections to transgender students in the district’s [anti] discrimination policy" So what is the transgender end game? I read yesterday: "It is important to remember that, unlike homosexuality, with which it is often compared legally and politically, "gender identity disorder" remains listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. However, it is important to further note that, particularly in the case of male-to-female transgenders, there are two quite different phenomena at work. These have to do not with a person's identity, but with behavior they engage in in order to fulfill their sexual desires." SOURCE: http://www.frc.org/testimony/testimony-by-peter-sprigg-before-the-maryland-state-senate
hmj March 02, 2012 at 05:20 PM
What do you get when you join Senator Mikulski, a pitbull, and a grapefruit ? The new definition of marriage in Maryland.
Able Baker March 02, 2012 at 07:26 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sprigg "Peter Sprigg earned a bachelor of arts degree summa cum laude from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey with a double major in political science and economics.[1] He received his master of divinity degree cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts in 1997" How exactly is this guy an "expert"? He's barely qualified to be a dogwalker.

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