Sacramento City school board approves transgender policy

Transgender students in the Sacramento City Unified School District will gain new rights and protections, with the approval of a set of guidelines by district trustees Thursday night.

The policy, passed in a 7-0 vote, will give administrators direction on how to accommodate transgender students – those who identify with a gender different from their sex at birth – and will allow them to use bathrooms and locker rooms for whichever sex they identify as.

The vote comes on the heels of a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed in August that solidifies the rights of transgender students. Assembly Bill 1266 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

District board member Jay Hansen hailed the policy as setting an example for the state.

“We’re a trendsetter in the best possible way for other districts,” he said.

The discussion before the vote was heated. Second Vice President Christina Pritchett raised numerous questions from her constituents.

Pritchett said the main concern involves a transgender female undressing in the girls’ locker room.

“I don’t feel we have the nuts and bolts figured out,” she said. “It’s easy for us to say we support this issue, but how are we going to go forth with protecting our students.”

Twenty-eight people spoke before the board during the public comment period. A majority of them urged district officials to pass the policy.

“Thank you for supporting all students. By approving this policy, you are helping to teach our youth how to affirm diversity,” said Mandy Taylor, interim director of programs at Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

She was one of many LGTBQ organizers who attended to nudge the board along.

A few speakers criticized the proposal.

Ralph Merletti, a substitute teacher and an unsuccessful candidate for trustee Patrick Kennedy’s Area 7 seat in the 2012 school board election, said the policy would only “please the whims and perceptions of a few.”

“How does this create a culture of respect and inclusion?” Merletti asked.

Lawrence Shweky, coordinator of integrated support services for the district, said officials have already been accommodating transgender students, and the policy would serve to clarify how the issue is handled.

“The policies both at the student level and education code were not completely clear,” Shweky said in an interview.

Civic groups across the state are hoping to repeal AB 1226 with a referendum in November. Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute said supporters of a referendum have gathered 620,000 signatures to halt the law from taking effect.

Dacus criticized the law and the school policy, which he said would allow boys to go into the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.

“It’s the big elephant in the room,” he said.

But Hansen noted that any referendum would have no bearing on the district’s policy.

Student board member Margarita Kovalchuk voted against the policy, though her vote is not legally binding.

In an interview, the West Campus High senior said she disagreed that only transgender students should be afforded additional privacy.

“My duty is to represent all students,” Kovalchuk said.

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