Laramie Debates Schools' Transgender Student Policy Proposals

Jan 21, 2016

Credit AARON SCHRANK/WPR

The Albany County School District #1 Board is considering a policy meant to protect the rights of transgender students. The Board has drafted two different proposals to that end.

Both policies would do many of the same things—like require school district staff to address students by the name and pronoun consistent with the gender identity they express at school.

Both draft A and draft B of the proposed policy set student privacy guidelines, like “the District should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status to third parties.”

They both say that transgender students should “generally” be allowed to join the sports teams and P.E. classes that match their gender identity.

But there are some key differences. Chiefly, draft A would allow transgender boys to use boys’ restrooms and locker rooms and transgender girls to use girls’ facilities, while draft B would require students to either use the facilities in line with their biological sex—or request a separate, private area.

At a packed hearing before the Albany County School Board on Wednesday, the 40 or so people giving public comment were nearly split in their support for the two policies.

“I just want to stress the importance for you guys to pass policy A, to truly support the transgender community of the district, and truly allow us to be who we are,” Laramie High School senior Rihanna Kelver told the Board. “Too often trans people are dehumanized in their communities and in their schools. I ask that you don’t do that to the trans people in our community, and I ask that you don’t do that to me.”

Rihanna is a transgender girl and the president of an on-campus group called Safe Area for LGBT Youth.

“I am one of the human beings behind this policy,” said Rihanna. “I’m not the only transgender student in the district. I am the one whose fate lies in your hands. I’m one of the 50 percent who struggle with suicide—because of how uncomfortable and how shut out they are from our communities.”

More than 20 students, parents, teachers and professors voiced support for draft A, but many others said they supported ‘B’—or preferred the Board adopt no policy regarding transgender students.

“I have a daughter, and if a boy walks into the bathroom with my daughter, we’re going to have words,” Sam Martin told the Board. “You’re going to have problems not only with me—there’s many, many, many parents that agree with me.”

Most of those opposing draft A argued that transgender students using their preferred restrooms would make other children uncomfortable—or somehow pose a danger to students.

Aside from the controversial bathroom provision, draft A also differs from draft B in that it calls for resources and support for transgender and transitioning students and aims at “maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student within [the] District.”

The Board could take action on either of the proposals as soon as next month.