A new policy has been unanimously approved by the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board that will allow transgender and gender expansive students, who identify outside of gender categories, to use pronouns, names, and bathrooms that they identify with. The policy will take effect in the coming school year.
Board member Moira Kaleida approved the policy, calling it a step in the right direction for those who are vulnerable in the district:
"The next steps will be for principals and administrators, security guards, nurses to get fully trained throughout the summer," Kaleida said. "That's why it was important we get it passed as soon as possible. Not only to be in compliance with the law, but so that we can start doing the appropriate training needed for all the staff in the schools."
Kaleida went on to say that she is responsible for initiating the plan and that she created it from one already in place at Brashear High School, which was implemented in the 2014-15 school year.
As a result of the new policy, the district is officially in compliance with state and federal standards on bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
Despite a unanimous vote, board member Cynthia Falls said that she still felt that opposing viewpoints had not been heard during the board's public workshop held in May. While she did approve the policy citing federal regulations, she said due diligence was needed for those with differing viewpoints.
No physical changes will be made to school bathrooms. Rather, students will simply be allowed to enter and use the bathroom they feel comfortable using without needing to provide any medical proof of transition or parental consent. Private bathrooms will also be made available, reports Sarah Schneider for WESA.
In addition, teachers and staff members will be required to use each individual student's preferred pronoun and name, without a legal name change or parental consent. The policy also discusses students' right to privacy, particularly pertaining to keeping transgender status private. The policy does not allow teachers to disclose any information on the topic to parents or other students without receiving permission from the student first, reports Lisa Washington for CBS Pittsburgh.
Reaction from parents has been mixed. While a number feel that policy is a step in the right direction for the district, PPS parent Steven Abate said that although it is obvious that those who wrote the policy care for students, he is concerned that it may endanger those it is meant to protect.
"I'm not worried about my daughter being in a bathroom or a locker room with a bunch of boys dressed as girls or transgender girls," Abate said. "I'm more concerned about the transgender boy who insists on going into the locker room with a group of boys. Does that group of boys â¦ do they see a boy or do they see a girl?"
Abate added that he would like to see a revision made that includes a requirement for the written support of parents of the students who plan to change their identity.