The local teachers union has requested to join the defense of a lawsuit against the Board of Education and the school district’s superintendent regarding the district’s transgender policy.
The Frederick County Teachers Association and its state and national affiliates — the Maryland State Education Association and the National Education Association — have requested to intervene as defendants in the civil action to get rid of the district’s transgender policy, which the Board of Education passed in June.
“There was clear data that there was a need and students spoke up and said they needed the adults to protect them and make the school a safer environment for them,” said Melissa Dirks, FCTA president. “And this policy expands privacy rights for all students, and we felt the Board of Education did the right thing for everyone.”
The policy allows transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity and participate in sports and other activities consistent with that identity, and encourages a gender-neutral dress code. The policy has been lauded as a model policy by state legislators.
But a parent and a 15-year-old FCPS student filed the suit in August, alleging that the policy violates the student’s right to bodily privacy, and the parent’s right to “care, custody, control, upbringing,” and information regarding her child.
The teachers association offered its support of the transgender policy as the board drafted and considered its passage. The union hosted a series of training sessions for its members designed to help them better serve their transgender and gender-nonconforming students even before the policy was passed, the motion said.
In Dirks’ declaration in support of the policy, she stated that as transgender students started coming out with more frequency in the late 2000s and early 2010s, teachers had to address questions that hadn’t encountered before — which led to inconsistencies in the treatment of those students.
“When educators saw these issues arise, they asked their school’s administration about which bathrooms students could use, but the response varied,” Dirks’ motion states. “Sometimes the same school gave conflicting directions to different educators.”
The policy eliminated some of those inconsistencies, Dirks said.
Dirks added that she felt the need for the union to file the motion because the lawsuit made “some sweeping accusations about teachers in FCPS that we felt like we needed to respond to.”
Two weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union and James Van Kuilenburg, a transgender student at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, asked to join the case as co-defendants.
The ACLU filed the motion to “defend the school board’s policy and stop members of the community from attempting to disrupt his and other trans students’ education by taking away their right to be treated with dignity as the gender they are.”
A judge has not ruled on the ACLU and Van Kuilenburg’s motion, nor the motion from the teachers union.
The same day the motion to intervene was filed, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying it has no merit because the girl does not have a legal right to share a bathroom with non-transgender students only.