Albuquerque Public Schools proposes new gender identity policy

Students allowed to use restrooms, locker rooms based on gender identity, not biological gender

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Under a new policy proposed by Albuquerque Public Schools’ administration, students would be treated based on the gender they identify with, not necessarily the gender they’re born with.

That policy, aimed at making transgender students feel welcome, lays out everything from which dress code applies to which restrooms and locker rooms students are able to use.

Janalee Barnard, APS’ director of Title IX programs, tells KRQE News 13 that in general, students will be treated according to the gender they identify with.

For instance on the issue of which name to call transgender students, the proposed policy says:

Students shall have the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity that is asserted at school. Students shall not be required to obtain a court ordered name, a gender change or to change their official records before they may be addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.

When it comes to dress code, the policy currently being looked at states:

Students shall have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity within the constraints of the dress codes adopted by the district and the school. School staff shall not enforce a school’s dress code more strictly against transgender and gender non-conforming students than other students.

Restrooms follow a similar rule, with the proposed policy reading in part:

Students shall have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity at school. Where available, a single stall bathroom may be used by any student who desires increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason. The use of such a single stall bathroom shall be a matter of choice for a student, and no student shall be compelled to use such bathroom.

Locker rooms would follow slightly different guidelines in situations where students could be changing. On that issue, the proposed policy says:

In locker rooms that involve undressing in front of others, transgender students who want to use the locker room corresponding to their gender identity shall be provided with the best possible available accommodation. Based on availability and appropriateness to address privacy concerns, such accommodations could include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of a private area in the public area (e.g., a bathroom stall with a door, an area separated by a curtain, a PE instructor’s office in the locker room);
  • A separate changing schedule (either utilizing the locker room before or after the other students);
  • Use of a nearby private area (e.g., a nearby restroom, a nurse’s office).

Some parents News 13 spoke to were worried a boy could simply claim he was a girl and be allowed into a locker room or restroom, but the proposed policy aims to prevent that by saying gender identity is defined as something “which is consistently asserted, or for which there is other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the student’s core identity.”

In other issues, like athletics or other activities, students would be allowed to participate with the gender they identify with as well. That wouldn’t trump the NMAA’s current policy, which requires a student to play with the gender that’s on their birth certificate.

Barnard says putting a policy in place is long overdue.

“We have addressed the issues in the past but we have never formalized a policy,” Barnard said. “This is ensuring students that are transgender aren’t going to be discriminated against.”

Creating the policy was pushed in part by a 2014 ruling from the US Department of Education that found that Title IX, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, also protects people from being discriminated against on the basis of gender identity. That means school districts could be at risk of being sued on those grounds.

Albuquerque High School parents and grandparents News 13 spoke with Monday were on both sides of the proposed policy.

“He’s still a male and if my granddaughter’s in there I don’t want him going in there using the bathroom while she’s in there using the bathroom,” said Jerry Martinez. “This is a young woman and to have a male coming in there I mean I just don’t think it’s right.”

“Sexual identity is a really difficult thing for kids at this time in their lives and to support them in whatever struggles they’re going through is important for the school district to do,” said Kei Tzusuki.

A school board committee is scheduled to start looking at the proposed policy at a Wednesday afternoon meeting. It’s currently set for 4:30 p.m. at the DeLayo Martin Community Room at APS Headquarters, 6400 Uptown Boulevard NE.

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