Shorewood adopts transgender student guidelines, protections

Accommodations will be made for trans-identifying students

March 5, 2014

Shorewood — With the adoption of an extensive and explicit set of guidelines, the Shorewood School District has become the first Milwaukee-area school system to formally recognize and provide facilities for transgender students.

Under the guidelines, drafted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and tweaked by the district's policy committee, Shorewood formalizes definitions of transgender students and students who don't conform to gender stereotypes. Complaints of discrimination, harassment, or bullying of those students will now be handled in the same way as other complaints.

Though school staff will usually use a student's legal name and gender pronouns corresponding with a student's biological gender, adult students or legal guardians may now specify which name and gender pronouns teachers should use while addressing students in class.

After students notify the district of their transgender status, they may use bathrooms of their identified gender or unisex bathrooms. Requests to use gender-identified locker rooms or changing rooms will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, though the students may also use the gender-neutral coaches' locker room if need be. Under the guidelines, students may participate in gym classes and intramural sports in a "manner consistent with their gender identity" and must comply with the dress codes of their identified gender.

"I think Shorewood prides itself on being forward and progressive," School Board member Paru Shah said, adding of any flak the district may take, "I don't think we would shy away from that sort of criticism, but be more adamant that every student in our schools should be in a safe learning environment."

Leading the way

According to Brian Juchems, director of programs at Madison-based Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, Shorewood is the sixth district statewide to adopt the transgender student guidelines. Most of the districts are in the Madison area, said Juchems, making Shorewood the first Milwaukee-area district to make the change.

"It really is a shining example of a district being proactive to make sure students are protected and included," Juchems said. "Hopefully others will follow the example Shorewood is setting."

Juchems said the guidelines make it clear to students that transgender students are protected and give teachers the means to enforce that protection.

"I know most educators want to do that, but they don't know how, or they don't know the higher ups are going to support them," Juchems said. "Passing these sorts of changes sends a clear message to students, staff and the communities."

Facilities work

Shah said the high school already has unisex bathrooms and locker rooms available for students who may need them.

"That's what people are most interested in, bathrooms and locker rooms," Shah said, "and luckily we already have that set up."

District communications coordinator Rachel Vesco said the new guidelines require transgender or gender nonconforming students to notify the district in writing before being allowed access to their restrooms of choice.

"Once we're aware of that, we'll make the students aware of where these gender-neutral restrooms are," Vesco said. "We're trying to make it as positive and comfortable as possible for the students."

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