A last-minute turnout of opposing residents was not enough to delay a vote on the Frederick County Board of Education’s transgender policy.
The board approved the policy Wednesday evening. In part, the policy allows students to choose which bathroom to use based on the gender with which that student identifies.
It also gives any student who is uncomfortable for any reason using a gender-segregated bathroom the option to use a safe and non-stigmatizing alternative — such as privacy curtains, provisions to use private restrooms or office restrooms, or a separate changing schedule in locker rooms.
The policy also allows transgender students to participate in sports that align with their gender identity. So, a transgender girl could play girls soccer, and a transgender boy could play baseball. The policy also says that students are not required to disclose their gender identity.
Board member April Miller was the lone member to oppose the policy. She said she wanted to delay the vote to make the policy more clear in regards to what information parents had a right to know. She cited a policy that Fairfax County, Virginia, Public Schools is working on as having more comprehensive language.
Board member Joy Schaefer said the policy does not preclude the regulation being worked on by Fairfax County Public Schools.
Before the meeting, transgender student activist James Van Kuilenburg organized a rally of about 50 supporters of the policy outside the Frederick County Public Schools central office building.
Van Kuilenburg, a transgender student at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, was one of 15 speakers to offer public comment on the policy, though most of the commenters spoke out in opposition.
Dan Cox, a former Republican candidate for Congress, spoke out against the policy, saying the board was putting students at risk.
“You’re exposing every child in this county to potential of sexual abuse,” he said.
Arlin Hatch spoke in opposition to the policy because he said he felt that parents were being shut out of the process, and that the school board was overstepping its boundaries.
“If the school system excludes parents from [the] equation, it would cripple parents’ ability” to intervene and help, said Hatch, whose wife, Veronica, also spoke at the meeting.
Schaefer said it’s the board’s preference for schools to work with parents, and the board hopes they would do so.
County Councilman Tony Chmelik asked the board to delay the vote as well, citing feedback he has received from members of his district.
“What’s the problem with hitting the pause button?” Chmelik asked.
The board expressed that after five policy committee meetings, and three regular full board meetings, it was ready to vote.
“I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” school board member Ken Kerr said in support of the measure.
“We’re not doing [this] because we want to be an activist or because we think it’s fun.”
Student board member Carter Gipson, whose vote does not count, said he had concerns about the policy when it first came up. But throughout the process he has come to support it.
“It’s worth trying,” he said.
Several board members agreed that this process has been a learning experience, and if the policy needs to be amended, it can be.
“Is it perfect? I don’t know,” board President Brad Young said. But the policy can be amended in the future, he added.
Board member Colleen Cusimano was not present at the meeting and, therefore, did not vote.