Opposing views on newly passed transgender policy
April 19, 2016
PV’s transgender policy makes history
BOE makes the right decision
This past Monday, the Pascack Valley Board of Education passed Policy #5756, which allows students that are transgender to use the bathroom and locker rooms of the gender that they identify with.
This is a huge step for the rights of those in the LGBT+ community and civil rights for all people. For most transgender teens, it is very tough for them to open up to their parents and they often feel most comfortable at school. The fact that the Board of Education passed this policy to help these students is the most important factor of the policy.
Students who are cisgender (a person identifying with their biological gender), often wonder, what about my rights in this policy? The writing “all men are created equal,” straight from our Declaration of Independence, has laid out, along with our Constitution, the certain unalienable rights that all people have. And all people means all people: white, black, cisgender, or transgender. Everyone has these unalienable rights because, simply put, we are all people.
When first hearing of this policy, I did not know how to feel. I felt curious about the policy, why was it coming into place, now? Why has it sparked such a debate? I didn’t know how many transgender students there are in the school; I didn’t even know who these students are.
After attending the Board of Education meeting, I realized that the policy is not only historic, but it is the right thing to do.
Opponents of the policy have said that this is a mental disease, against their religious beliefs; their children will be uncomfortable with a student that has transitioned to the opposite gender changing in their locker rooms.
To those who say that being transgender is a mental disease, as said by someone who was against the policy at the Board meeting, these students would have to be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits public discrimination against people with disabilities in public accommodation. Public schools are considered places of public accommodation.
Opponents who have cited religion have read Bible verses and said that God does not make mistakes. In 1968, the United States Supreme Court ruled an Arkansas law that made it illegal to teach evolution and only teach the story of Divine Creation that is found in The Bible in public schools, as unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right of Freedom of Expression. As a practicing Catholic, I have come to the realization that Jesus wants all people to be happy and He loves everyone. These Bible verses that were read at the meeting were also some the ones read by opponents to Civil Rights in the 1950s and 1960s. We need to learn from our history rather than simply repeat it.
Finally, opponents who feel students will be uncomfortable with transgender students changing in the locker rooms should know that no one gets naked while changing in the locker room. Plus, almost every student follows an unspoken rule in the locker room when changing for physical education or for sports: the pants/shirt that you were wearing for the school day come off, and then you put your gym article of clothing on right away. The same follows for the next piece of clothing that is left, shirt or pants. No student ever sees any genitalia in the locker rooms.
There is always a certain level of discomfort with anything new. When African Americans were first allowed to serve in the military, many white soldiers did not want to fight alongside of them, which led to the creation of black regiments in the United States military. Over time, the regiments were phased out and people of all skin colors were able to work together to protect this great nation we live in.
Let’s not forgot the law that brought this policy about. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression, among other things. The LAD specifically prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation (which includes public schools) and mandates that in public accommodations such as bathrooms or locker rooms that are separated by gender, a person must be able and allowed to use the facility consistent with their gender identity or expression.
Because of this law, the Board created a policy that would accommodate transgender students and follow this law.
Not even twenty-four hours after the policy was passed, I came to school the next morning with a smile on my face, proud of the community for a healthy debate and the fact that we are talking about something so revolutionary. Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills students should be proud of this new policy and the debate it has sparked because we are on the right side of history, of helping those in the LGBT+ community become the people they are and the people they aspire to be. Pascack Valley Board of Education Policy #5756 is history.
New transgender policy misses the mark
Proposal fails to acknowledge comfort of other students
In the modern day, the idea of progress seems to have lost its meaning. No longer do people associate progress with the betterment of society as a whole, or something done for the common good. Rather, it is now mistaken for when small groups of minorities receive treatment and privileges at the expense of the vast public.
Such is the case with Pascack Valley’s newly passed transgender policy. In an attempt to make transgender students more comfortable by permitting them to use the bathrooms and locker rooms opposite of their biological sex, the administration is ignoring the large majority, the rest of the student body.
In essence, the Board of Education is saying it is fine for the rest of the students to feel uncomfortable, as long as these select few are satisfied. Anyone can see that this is of stark contrast to their self-proclaimed goal of providing a “safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students”, as stated on the first line of this new policy. It seems like the administration has confused the word “all” with a small group of no more than 6-8 students.
It is true that there are many at PV who will accept transgender students in their bathrooms, or will simply not care. However, it is presumptuous and flawed to assume this is the opinion of the student body as a whole. Just take a look at The Smoke Signal’s most recent poll, in which almost half of the people polled said they are not happy that the policy was passed.
Thus, it is without a doubt that many students throughout Pascack Valley quietly share these concerns about using bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people. Unfortunately, most of these aforementioned students will be encouraged to keep their thoughts to themselves, in fear of being labeled something along the lines of an intolerant bigot who needs to “get with the times.” It is a shame that most will jump to these conclusions without first considering the completely legitimate opinions of these people.
And what legitimate opinions they are. Contrary to what you might have heard, feeling uncomfortable changing with someone who is transgender does not make you satanic; it’s a perfectly normal reaction. The same principles apply to this situation as changing with a member of the opposite sex. It is simply human nature for some to be uncomfortable about using facilities with someone who is not of the same sex as themselves, and that is not something that should be looked down upon.
There is good reason why bathrooms and locker rooms are separated by sex in the first place. It is understood that men and women use these facilities in different ways, and it is almost unheard of to suggest completely unseparated bathrooms. Therefore, it is only logical to think that if a person does not have the corresponding parts of the gender of a facility, they do not belong in that facility. It is common sense, not sexism, discrimination, or injustice, to believe that biological gender should trump psychological gender in these cases.
Whether you agree with this assessment or not, there are undeniably people that feel this way, both in the Pascack Valley community and in the country as a whole. In PV’s case, the comfortability and opinions of these students should be in no way valued any less than the transgender students themselves.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that PV’s new policy deals with much more than just the use of opposite bathrooms and locker rooms. The policy outlines that transgender students shall be referred to by their chosen name and pronouns by the faculty, all unofficial school records will be changed to such name and pronoun, and transgender students can play sports of whatever gender they identify as, among other smaller actions. These policies are sensible, as there is no real harm in making these efforts, and it doesn’t affect anybody but the students who are transgender themselves.
There is also one specific part of Pascack Valley’s written policy that is commendable. The district seems strict when it comes to determining if one is qualified for the guidelines laid out by the new protocol or not. According to the policy itself, the administration will only approve of a student’s request “when there is consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity.” This directly addresses a problem that many would have with the policy otherwise, preventing a student from claiming they are transgender when they really don’t feel that way, in order to receive the benefits of the policy without actually being transgender.
Maybe this doesn’t matter in the long run. Maybe no one will take advantage of the policy. Maybe people who are transgender continue to use the “gender neutral” single bathrooms near the back of the auditorium, a completely reasonable alternate solution. Maybe there will be no problems in the future regarding this matter, and we will not hear of it again. All of this is unknown. What is known, however, is that the administration, in charge of doing what is best for the school and students as a whole, made a controversial decision with only a few in mind.