‘Gender identity’ added to school board policy


Photo Credit: Board of Education

BOE President Sheldon Hirschberg , BOE Vice President Elizabeth Carr and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paula Valenti at the BOE meeting on January 4th

by Christina Howie, Copy Editor

At the Glen Rock Board of Education meeting on Jan. 4, the school board decided to revise the current school board policy by including the term ‘gender identity’.

Revisions were made to the following policies:

  • 2224 Nondiscrimination/Affirmative Action
  • 4111 Recruitment, Selection and Hiring – Certified Staff
  • 4111.1 Nondiscrimination/Affirmative Action
  • 4211 Recruitment, Selection and Hiring
  • 4211.1 Nondiscrimination/Affirmative Action
  • 5145.4 Equal Educational Opportunity
  • 6121: Nondiscrimination/Affirmative action.

“Our decisions on this issue stem from our focus on the well-being of all Glen Rock students,” said Mr. Sheldon Hirschberg, president of the Board of Education.  “The district adopted these policies in order to attempt to provide an inclusive, respectful and safe environment for all students.”

During the 2014-15 school year, Dr. Paula Valenti, superintendent, participated in a Title IX educational webinar. Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”.   This webinar inclined the district to reevaluate the current policy.

“I think when we see changes like this one we are simply putting into policy (or words/documents) something we are already doing at the school level,” said Mrs. Nicole Rusin, co-adviser of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Glen Rock High School.  “Will this directly impact our students in an immediate way? Probably not, but I certainly think that inclusion and acknowledgement of differences in these policies is an important step in reaching acceptance for all students.”

Last January, Glen Rock High School changed the former male faculty bathroom in the junior hallway to a unisex bathroom that could be used by both faculty and students.  This was done to provide more privacy than other bathrooms in the school.

“The administration of the high school as well as the administration of each of our buildings is responsible for recommending changes to programs and facilities,” Hirschberg said.  “However, the Board of Education will always work with the administration for the mutual benefit of all of our students, teachers and staff.”

Last month the GSA welcomed Leo Caldwell, transman and postgender activist, to speak to students about his experience and educate them about the transgender community.

“Words in policies are not enough.  We have to, as a community, learn more and do more to make everyone feel accepted.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but respect an individual’s choice to live life any way they choose,” Rusin said.  “Understand that not everyone is the same, and stand up for people when they are criticized for being different.  Challenge the norm.”