The Vermillion School Board approved, on first reading, an updated Gender Equity and Access Policy that includes locker rooms as well as restrooms as places that students can use for the gender in which they consistently identify.

The school board first attempted to approve the policy on its first reading at its April meeting, but it appeared that board members were uncertain on whether wording should be added to the district’s gender equity and access policy that adds locker rooms along with rest rooms as places that students should be permitted to use based on the gender with which they identify.

Also in doubt last month was whether any wording relating to overnight accommodations for out-of-town school activities should be added to current policy. Not putting locker room use and overnight accommodations in print as part of the policy is included in suggestions the district has received from a regional law firm.

After several minutes of discussion during the board’s April meeting, the talks stopped after School Attorney Brent Matter advised the board to table the policy and move into executive session later that night so that he could privately advise the board on related issues.

Monday night, Matter advised the board that the wording of the policy was a decision that was up to them. Board members agreed to add locker rooms to the policy.

The policy also addresses the question of overnight accommodations with the statement: Overnight accommodations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Last November, after receiving public input from both opponents and proponents, the school board gave second reading and final approval to the district’s “Gender Equity and Access” policy.

The new guideline is designed to help the Vermillion School District protect the civil rights of transgender students and addresses the issue of gender identity in school accommodations, including restrooms.

Board members voted to approve a motion at that time that omitted one part of the original policy that deals with overnight accommodations for transgender students. That portion of the policy reads: “Overnight Accommodations: Students shall be assigned to rooms based on their consistently asserted gender identity, accommodating additional privacy needs as requested.”

The board agreed in November that further discussion regarding overnight accommodations, along with locker room and shower use portions of the policy, should be held at some time in the future.

That time is now, evidently, especially since improvements to locker room facilities in the district’s school buildings have been completed.

The policy reads: Gender identity means a gender related identity of a person, regardless of the person's assigned sex at birth. The Vermillion School District has established this policy to both foster an educational environment that is safe and welcoming for all students as well as comply with local, state, and federal law.

Procedure: Communication with the school is key. The District will make arrangements with students regarding dress code, restroom, and participation in activities. These arrangements should be based on the student's or parent's wishes, be minimally burdensome, and be appropriate under the circumstances. The determination of consistently asserted gender may be determined in collaboration of any the following­ parent/guardian, counselor, building administrator, and physician. As part of this process, the District may request documentation from the student or parents.

Confidentiality: A student has a right to keep their status as a transgender student private at school. The District shall keep this information confidential and staff shall not disclose this information unless legally required.

Communications and Publications: Pronouns and Name Changes -Pronouns used should be the choice of the student. A legal name change is not required for a student to use the preferred name for class lists, student activities, yearbook publications, etc. However, a student's legal name must be indicated in the student's official records. The District may list the student's preferred name in the official records by listing it next to the student's legal name with asterisks next to it until a legal name change is made.

Restroom and Locker Room: All students should have access to a restroom or locker room that is safe, comfortable, and convenient. Absent a compelling, specific, and documented concern for safety, the District shall permit a student to use the restroom or locker room for the gender with which they consistently, persistently, and insistently identify.

Activities: A student shall be permitted to participate in interscholastic activities for the gender with which that student consistently identifies (assuming the student is eligible otherwise), subject to the policies of the South Dakota High School Athletic Association and any compelling safety concerns.

This policy does not prohibit any facility within the Vermillion School District from maintaining separate toilet facilities, locker rooms, or living facilities for the different sexes so long as comparable facilities are provided.

Overnight accommodations will be handled on a case by case basis.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.