Students Take the Lead In Crafting New Transgender-Inclusive Policy for Dresden Schools September 29, 2016

The Valley News Editorial Board has endorsed the Dresden School District’s decision to adopt transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policies, as developed by a group of local students.

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The board goes on to write that the Dresden School District’s commitment to inclusion can serve as a model for the rest of our society: “The Dresden district…has reached a good end that will afford transgender students dignity, respect and an acknowledgement of their right to be included fully in school life. We look forward to the day when our entire society matches these ideals.”

The new policy requires that participation practices relating to extracurricular activities, including sports, “be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” It was crafted to meet non-discrimination guidelines set by the New Hampshire School Boards Association, which are themselves based on U.S. Department of Education guidelines for how schools must treat transgender students.

In 2014 the Department of Education announced that Title IX’s protections against gender-based discrimination applied to transgender students. That means schools that receive any federal funding can’t single students out for disparate treatment—such as what sports they can play or facilities they can use—because of their gender identity. Schools that don’t adhere to the DOE’s guidelines risk having their federal funding pulled.

This new policy will have an immediate positive impact on the day-to-day lives of the Dresden School District’s transgender students. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of transgender students report being harassed at school—a situation that can damage a student’s self-esteem and hurt their GPA. It can also have severe physical consequences: Transgender students are between 2 and 3 times more likely than their peers to be depressed, anxious and contemplate suicide, largely because of the treatment they face in school.

With this proactive policy update, the Dresden School District joins nearly two dozen K-12 school districts and four universities—which collectively serve 1.5 million students—that have implemented explicit nondiscrimination policies modeled on the DOE’s guidance.

And in this case, it was students who led the charge to update the school district’s policy. Talk of enacting district-wide protections for transgender students started when a Hanover High School sophomore raised the concern. The student-controlled school council took up the issue, and the policy changes were passed largely with no objections from the school board.

The incredible student and district support for transgender-inclusive policies to ensure ALL students can participate fairly and equally at school is just one example in a trend of mounting support for the fair and equal treatment of transgender people across New Hampshire.

If you stand with the Valley News editorial board, Dresden School District, and Hanover students in support of transgender equality, add your name to our pledge today.