Critics slam MPS transgender guidelines |

MESA Public Schools released new guidelines to welcome transgender and gender-nonconforming students into schools on July 14, sparking critics who say the district’s diversity and inclusion initiatives go too far.

Some critics spoke out at the August 23 MPS board meeting, where they made strong criticisms of some of the protocols, which allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex to which they identify themselves.

Board candidate Ed Steele and other local activists campaigned against “woke ideology” in schools and released the guidelines online with harsh criticism.

The Arizona Republican Party’s Twitter account even weighed in, sharing a post from Steele that read, “Mesa Public Schools is committed to hiding students’ ‘gender’ status from parents if students request it.”

The school district says it is following federal guidelines and protecting students.

In a statement to the Tribune, MPS Director of Communications and Engagement, Joseph Valdez, said: “The guidelines are intended to help schools ensure a safe learning environment free from discrimination and harassment, and to meet the educational and social needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students. “,

Some of the key elements of the new MPS guidelines, which are posted on the district’s website at mpsaz.org/legal/tngns, include:

  • Schools will allow transgender or gender nonconforming students to use their chosen gender name and pronouns that reflect their identity, whether or not they have legally changed their name.
  • Schools must allow students to use facilities that match their gender identity, including toilets, changing rooms, showers, and single-sex classrooms.
  • Schools cannot require transgender students to use facilities that are incompatible with their gender identity or to use facilities for individual users when other students are not required to do so, but they can provide options for individual users to all students who voluntarily seek more privacy.

A student’s legal name recorded in the MPS Synergy Student Information System will be protected for confidentiality and separated from other parts of the student’s record.

With respect to sports participation, the district will comply with HB 1165, which was signed by Governor Doug Ducey in March and goes into effect Sept. 24. The law seeks to ban transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams or in “designated” sports. for “women“, “women” or “girls”.

Along with the guidelines, MPS has also created a standardized form titled “Support Plan for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.

The form asks transgender or gender nonconforming students to nominate a “support facilitator” at school to discuss plans for using school facilities, describe their preferred names and pronouns, and describe how open they wanted to be about their identity on campus.

“Because the guidelines do not anticipate every situation that may arise, each student’s needs should be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Valdez wrote. “The support plan is a tool provided to help meet the student’s needs.

Valdez said a draft guideline has been around for several years.

The reason for issuing the guidelines this summer, he said, was an official interpretation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments issued by the Biden administration in June 2021.

According to Valdez, “The U.S. Department of Education/Office of Civil Rights issued an interpretation notice clarifying the agency’s interpretation of Title IX to include a prohibition on sex discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. gender identity and explaining that they will enforce this ban.”

Since the release of the guidelines, the MPS’s standardized form collecting information on transgender students has been a particular lightning rod for critics.

Based on screenshots of the document shared online, this form has been updated by MPS at least twice since the guidelines were published, most recently on August 23.

The changes seem mostly related to communication between schools and parents about students’ gender identity status.

Early versions of the form ask students whether their parents are aware of their transitioning status, whether they approve of it, and whether or not the school has the student’s permission to share information about their gender identity with the parents.

The now deleted part of the form has partly spurred Steele’s complaints about schools that “hide” students’ gender identity.

The latest version of the form avoids questions about parents and guardians altogether, stating only: “Parents/guardians will be notified if student requests changes to Synergy,” the district’s student records system.

The MPS guidelines, separate from the student form, further state that the form “is a confidential record of the student…subject to inspection and review by the parent or guardian of the student” .

This implies that parents have the right to access information about the student’s declared gender identity, but schools will only contact parents about gender identity issues in limited circumstances.

That was a problem for Sharon Benson, who spoke during public comments at the August 23 board meeting.

The changes to the form mean that “the student is solely 100% responsible for this transgender issue on a school campus,” Benson told the board.

“This, of course, has the effect of putting children in an adversarial position with their parent, and it undermines parental authority.”

Benson also took issue with leaving the choice of accommodation “facilitator” up to the student.

“It would be unwise to allow any adult on campus to fill this role because most adults would not be aware of the issue and could not guide properly,” Benson said.

“Wisdom would only have qualified counselors willing to fully explore with students their feelings. Wisdom would not require that only gender-affirming care be provided.

Chris Hamlet, who is also a candidate for the board, asked members of the board during public comments why the guidelines were issued by the superintendent and the legal department, and not debated and voted on by the board.

“I’d like you to show me a parent of a girl who would be okay with her daughter in a locker room getting ready to take a shower with a boy in the room with his genitals in front of his face,” he said. he declares. “Just find me a parent who’s okay with that. I don’t care if it’s a dad or a mom, a parent who’s okay with their daughter being in that environment.

Open meeting laws prevented the board from responding to citizen comments or discussing transgender guidelines because the topic was not on the agenda.

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