The Vernon Township School District Board of Education approved a policy to put it into compliance with state law regarding transgender students.
The policy passed 7-2 with Board of Education members Mark Cilli and Natalie Buccieri voting no.
The policy, which was developed to comply with state law, requires the school district to take quick action to end harassment, intimidation, or bullying of transgender students. The superintendent is to ensure training is provided to provide training to school staff members on sensitivity or respect toward transgender students.
Dress codes should not be enforced more strictly for transgender and gender nonconforming students than for others.
The district is required to honor a student’s asserted gender identity and shall not require documentation to do so and is obligated to provide equal access to educational activities, even in circumstances, even if objections are raised by others.
It also requires students to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities in accordance with their gender identity.
Cilli and Buccieri both voted no during the policy’s first reading at the Jan. 6 work session, but were heavily criticized by members of the public.
"The fact that we have board members willing to vote no when the current policy is out of compliance, is quite frankly, an embarrassment," former Adina Leuthner said.
She said adopting a transgender student policy is a “great way for the district to make a public comment to transgender students as well as provide clarity on how to create a safe environment."
Glen Meadow seventh grader Rebekah Bruesehoff is a transgender girl, who transitioned when she was 8 years old. She’s a straight A student, plays clarinet and is on the field hockey team.
cBruesehoff, along with her mother, Jamie are advocates for transgender children and Rebekah was featured on an episode of the Marvel Hero Project on Disney Plus.
Jamie Bruesehoff said the district already allowed students to use locker rooms and bathrooms to have access to segregated locker rooms that line up with identity.
“The most vulnerable students in a locker room are transgender,” she said.
School board member Kelly Mitchell thanked the members of the public who came out and shared their stories.
“It means a tremendous amount to everyone here to hear what you had to say and share your personal stories,” she said. “It helps all of us. It's incredibly brave and moving.”
Cilli said he feels the policy, based in the law, is a good solution but has unintended consequences and was concerned that Title IX protections gained over the past decades could be endangered if athletes born as males but identify as female play in female sports.
He said his vote is to give the biological female athlete a voice.
“I also want to move on to say when I voted 'no' and when I do vote 'no' tonight it's not in any way to offend you,” Cilli said. “I do believe the law and policy is a very good solution. I do believe it's vital that every student feel included, accepted, supported and loved.”
“I also want to move on to say when I voted 'no' and when I do vote 'no' tonight it's not in any way to offend you. I do believe the law and policy is a very good solution. I do believe it's vital that every student feel included, accepted, supported and loved.”
Vernon Township School District Board of Education member
“Being transgender means being myself. I think you should know about the students you are making policies about. You should know trans kids are just like any other kids. I am able to be as successful as I am because of the support I get everywhere. I know how lucky that makes me."
Glen Meadow Middle School student