Guest Host: Jen Golbeck

Over the summer, some local school districts have revised their policies for how they recognize students’ gender identities.

In June, Arlington Public Schools adopted a rule ensuring that students can use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, and giving students the right to use their preferred names and pronouns. D.C. Public Schools and Alexandria Public Schools have added a nonbinary gender option to official system forms. Montgomery County Public Schools updated its guidelines for how the school system will accomodate transgender and gender nonconforming students.

And, a federal judge in Virginia handed a victory to former Gloucester County high school student Gavin Grimm, who alleges that his school violated his constitutional rights by preventing him from using the bathroom that matched his gender identity.

What does all of this mean for the experience of transgender and gender nonconforming students in area schools? We’ll check in.

Produced by Margaret Barthel

Guests

  • Maria Navarro Chief Academic Officer; Montgomery County Public School; @mcps
  • Debbie Truong Education Reporter, Washington Post; @debbietruong
  • Quincy DuBois Rising senior, Arlington Public Schools
  • Robert Rigby Teacher and President, Fairfax County Public Schools Pride; @fcpspride

Transcript

  • 12:00:02

    JEN GOLBECKWelcome to The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Jen Golbeck, sitting in for Kojo. Over the summer, some areas' schools revised their policies around recognizing the identities of transgender and gender non-binary students. Students in Alexandria, Arlington, Montgomery County and D.C. schools will have the option to mark "gender non-binary" on official school forms. In Arlington they'll have the right, now written into system wide policy, to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities. And teachers and staff will be required to refer to students using their preferred names and pronouns. That's also the case in Montgomery County.

  • 12:00:35

    JEN GOLBECKAs the new school year kicks off, what might these changes mean for student academic and social experiences in school? Joining us to discuss is Debbie Truong. She reports on education in Virginia for The Washington Post. Debbie, it's good to have you.

  • 12:00:49

    DEBBIE TRUONGThank you for having me.

  • 12:00:50

    GOLBECKSo, Debbie, before we jump in to the conversation, I want to make sure we'll are in the same page in terms of definitions. Listeners may hear words like transgender or cisgender or gender non-binary and gender identity. Can you start by defining those for us?

  • 12:01:03

    TRUONGYeah, sure. So one helpful resource that I have found in trying to learn about LGBTQ issues and the terminology used to navigate those issues is the GLAAD organization. GLAAD shares stories about LGBTQ people and advocates for more acceptance. GLAAD puts out a media guide, I think every couple of years, and as part of that guide they gave a very helpful glossary of terms. And so I'm pulling these definitions straight from that media guide.

  • 12:01:37

    TRUONGSo gender identity to start off is a person's internal sense and understanding about their gender. It's not something that's visible or is the same as what they're expressing, but who they feel inside themselves to be. Transgender is sort of an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or the way they express their gender may be different from the sex that they were assigned at birth. And a cisgender person is someone who is not transgender. A non-binary person is someone whose gender identity is neither strictly male or female. So their gender identity may fall somewhere between male or female or even outside both those binaries.

  • 12:02:21

    GOLBECKSo two weeks ago a federal judge ruled in a major lawsuit by a former Gloucester County high school student, Gavin Grimm, who is transgender. He said that the school district violated his constitutional rights in preventing him from using the bathrooms that correspond to his gender identity. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the ruling is from a lower court. So what's the latest on that?

  • 12:02:40

    TRUONGYeah, so to give you some background. Gavin Grimm sued the Gloucester County School Board in 2015 over a school board policy that effectively barred transgender students from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity. The case has been making its way through the courts ever since. And two years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case. That was until the Trump Administration rescinded Obama era guidance that said that students should be allowed to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity, so given that the case was sent down to the lower courts.

  • 12:03:19

    TRUONGAnd what you saw earlier this month was that a lower court judge found that Grimm's constitutional rights had been violated. I spoke with Gavin after the case and he was happy, but he was also cautious. The Gloucester County School Board has at every step of the case indicated that they plan to put a lot of legal force behind upholding the policy. And so Gavin and his lawyers seem pretty certain that the school board will appeal the decision. I have not been able to confirm that with the school board itself.

  • 12:03:50

    GOLBECKAnd so what's the Gloucester County School Board's legal argument against allowing Gavin Grimm to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity?

  • 12:03:58

    TRUONGWell, the school board has pointed to arguments from the community and other community members, who feel that other students privacy is violated by having a transgender student in the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

  • 12:04:15

    GOLBECKSo Gloucester County is a bit of a trek from here, but the case has implications for local school systems. Why have some of them been watching the outcome of this case so closely?

  • 12:04:25

    TRUONGSure. So Fairfax County Public Schools, which is, of course, in Northern Virginia and is the largest school system in the state a couple of years ago was considering a policy that would have explicitly allowed students to use the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity as well as put in writing that students must be called by their preferred pronouns. The school system held off on moving forward with those policies pending the resolution of Grimm's case and others throughout the country. And so I think, you know, even though Gloucester is quite a bit away from here, a lot of school systems especially in this region are looking to that case as sort of guidance on how to move forward.

  • 12:05:11

    GOLBECKThere's one area school system that isn't waiting to craft its own policy about gender identity and bathrooms and locker rooms. What's the new policy that Arlington public schools put in place over the summer?

  • 12:05:21

    TRUONGSure. So Arlington public schools like several other school systems in Northern Virginia have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation for quite some time. What most school systems have not done is put in writing what exactly that means. And so the Arlington policy that went into effect this summer explicitly says that students should be able to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity and among other things, like, they should be called their preferred pronouns and, you know, classroom rosters should be updated with the students preferred name.

  • 12:05:59

    GOLBECKNow joining the conversation, I'd like to bring in Maria Navarro. She is the Chief Academic Officer for Montgomery County Public Schools. Maria, thanks for joining us.

  • 12:06:07

    MARIA NAVARROThank you for having me.

  • 12:06:08

    GOLBECKWe also have Quincy DuBois, a rising senior in Arlington Public Schools. Quincy, thanks for joining us.

  • 12:06:14

    QUINCY DUBOISIt's great to be here.

  • 12:06:15

    GOLBECKAnd Robert Rigby, Jr. is a teacher and a President of Fairfax County Public Schools Pride. Robert, thanks for being with us.

  • 12:06:22

    ROBERT RIGBYThanks for having us.

  • 12:06:23

    GOLBECKSo, Quincy, you are a transgender student who attends school in Arlington and you testified at the school board meeting in support of the new policy. Why was it important to you that you speak up and what did you want to say?

  • 12:06:35

    DUBOISI thought it was really important for me to stand up as an out and proud transgender student for the students and peers I have around me that might not be able to be as out and proud, whether that be because of their situations at home with their families or any number of other factors that just don't enable them to be as loud and -- to be activists the way that I'm able to be. And I think that it was really important for me to speak at the school board meeting, because I wanted to make it clear that, you know, within our communities transgender people aren't outsiders. We have grown up here. We live here. You know, I love Arlington. I love the DMV area. This is where I spent my entire life and, you know, this place has shaped me into who I am.

  • 12:07:24

    DUBOISAnd I don't want people to think that transgender people are, you know, outsiders or are, you know, influencing our communities from, you know, big urban centers or something like that. I think, you know, we're people. We're your children. We're your students. We're the people you see on the street. And I think that getting us respect and our civil rights is a really important thing to me. And I think it's a step that I'll never stop trying to chase.

  • 12:07:48

    GOLBECKYou go back to school for your senior year in two weeks; what do you think the implications will be for the new policy just in every day experiences of transgender and gender non-binary students in Arlington schools?

  • 12:08:00

    DUBOISI think there will be many implications and I think it is going to be mostly fantastic. I'm very proud of the county and everyone who's been advocating for this new policy implementation plan. So we had a non-discrimination policy for a while, but it's been a little bit toothless if I might say that. It's had kind of a bland non-discrimination policy, but it hasn't been something with specific rules or regulations that tell people how to treat transgender students. And it's always been up to staff and teachers whether or not they would like to respect their transgender students whether that be with their pronouns or their name. And a lot of that can cause a lot of stress for students.

  • 12:08:43

    DUBOISAnd I think that implementing this new policy that will allow students to feel a lot more safe in their schools and in communities will make it so that there's a lot less stress regarding going to school and being in that social community for transgender students.

  • 12:08:59

    GOLBECKIn the past have you had trouble with getting your school to allow you to use the bathroom or the pronouns that you'd prefer?

  • 12:09:04

    DUBOISI actually have. Yeah, it has been for the most part really well done. I think people have handled it very well, but it has been a bit of a struggle. I came out when I was in my freshman year. And throughout my freshman year, you know, until the end of it I was living pretty much as out as transgender, but still treated as female. So I'm female to male transgender and throughout my sophomore year I was having to come out to everybody anew every time I introduced myself.

  • 12:09:35

    DUBOISSo I had to, you know, have a really complicated conversation with school administration, when I wanted to use the bathrooms and facilities that align with my male gender. And I think that while there's a lot of good intentions there, it was really almost impossible to make me and other transgender students feel comfortable and safe without a policy like the one that we're implementing now.

  • 12:09:58

    GOLBECKSo, Robert, some areas school systems including Fairfax haven't gotten quite as specific as Arlington has in requiring students to be referred to by their preferred pronouns, allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Does being specific matter?

  • 12:10:11

    RIGBYIt does. Fairfax has a reputation for being welcoming for transgender binary, non-binary students. We have the non-discrimination global policy that Quin says, Arlington used to have, but we don't have a lot of details. Our administrators know a lot. Our clinical staff know some. Our teachers don't get details until someone comes and says, you have a trans kid, you should act this way. And that works great for that 10 percent of trans kids that have a parent knocking down the schoolhouse door. But most parents for any reason, don't knock down the schoolhouse door, so the rest of the trans kids don't have staff with as much knowledge and understanding.

  • 12:11:08

    GOLBECKSo even without those same specifics that some of these other school districts have, would you still consider Fairfax to be a welcoming and inclusive place for trans and non-binary students?

  • 12:11:18

    RIGBYFairfax is a pretty welcoming place. You know, our intentions are good. We have a lot of work to do. But by and large it is welcoming and what I hear from parents, who advocate for their kids, is that people are wonderful. What I hear from kids who don't have parents advocating for is that they feel left out on the porch.

  • 12:11:44

    GOLBECKDebbie, in the last year Fairfax schools did decide to strict any reference to biological gender from their policies and instead use the term gender identity. Why is that significant?

  • 12:11:53

    TRUONGThat's significant, because I think it goes, you know, quite a long way in sort of reframing the way that we see gender and gender identity in schools. It may seem like a relatively small change. But what I heard from a lot of LGBTQ students and their advocates is that it just goes a step further in sort of recognizing and validating these students.

  • 12:12:20

    GOLBECKMaria, Montgomery County Public Schools also edited some of its guidelines around student gender identity and expression over the summer. What things changed and why?

  • 12:12:29

    NAVARROWell, so we wanted -- this is continuous work for us. Our school board sets the tone by looking at the policy and setting policy that sends a message to us as a community around how we are going to support the education of all our students. And we are listening to our community. And in that we have to revise policies, regulations. We also revised our guidelines for student gender identity and that's an important document, because those are important documents that are used in schools every day. Policy is important. It sets a tone for a school district. One of the core values of our school board is equity. And policies such as ACA and others that discuss how to be welcoming are important, but it is in the detail documents that reference for administrators and for school staff what to do and where to get support that we find a lot of value.

  • 12:13:34

    NAVARROSo we revised our guidelines. We expanded definitions of pronouns as it was mentioned earlier. We expanded specific questions around athletics how to access athletics. And that's an important piece so that students are able to participate based on their identified gender. And also questions around facilities.

  • 12:13:56

    GOLBECKSo, Maria, a few months ago a parent of a transgender student and a non-binary student raised the idea of making all bathrooms in MCPS facilities gender neutral. Is that something the school system is exploring?

  • 12:14:08

    NAVARROOur school board -- I remember that board meeting. Our school board has asked our facility office to go back and take a look at what it would look like to retrofit all of our facilities. I want to point out that moving forward as we design and open schools that is an area that we are looking at at how schools are designed, how restrooms and other facilities are designed moving forward. But that is something that the school board asked the facilities office to go back and take a look at.

  • 12:14:39

    GOLBECKThanks. We're going to take a quick break. As a reminder, if you want to join the conversation, if you're a teacher and you think about being inclusive you can give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. We'll be back in just a minute. Stay tuned.

  • 12:15:08

    GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck sitting in for Kojo. We're talking about gender identity inclusive policies in area schools. We've got a lot of calls and emails right now. And I'd like to start with Tamara in Silver Spring. Tamara, thanks for calling. You're on the air. Go ahead.

  • 12:15:22

    TAMARAHi. How are you? Thank you for having me. You know, as a new parent I have a daughter and a son. And, you know, I came up during a time where, you know, wasn't -- I won't say (unintelligible), but a lot kids that I grew up with didn't come out at the time. It was much later, because I grew up 80s, 90s. And so, you know, my thought of the transitional bathrooms to almost gender equal, my concern is around just the comfortability. So as much as maybe a transgender male, a transgender female want to feel comfortable in that moment when my daughter goes to the bathroom and she's standing next to somebody who's, you know, trans, who considers themselves female and feels comfortable going into a girls' bathroom that also impacts the comfortability of my daughter as well.

  • 12:16:11

    TAMARANot to say that I'm not open to the LGBT community so on and so forth and working (unintelligible) I'm curious to really understand is it really about the comfort? Is it really about equity? And how does that impact people on the other side? Because I think the intent and the impact has different consequences or different outcomes on both sides. And I would just like to hear and understand from really anybody on the panel around comfortability, because part of that is --

  • 12:16:46

    GOLBECKAll right. Let me get their comments, please, Tamara. Robert, why don't we start with you? I kind of want to go around to everyone. But as someone who's thought about this as sort of -- as a group that's working in schools to talk about some of the issues around that.

  • 12:16:58

    RIGBYYeah, my organization, we're not spokespeople for the county. We're an employees and parents group. What I hear from people and what I hear from students is that most of the time you won't even know the person next to you is trans, most of the time you won't know that there's a transgender person with you. And I think, you know, I'm not a spring chicken. I think we have to get used to the world the way it is, and I find that many of my students and most of my students are really comfortable sharing facilities with trans kids. For those who aren't, I think they should have the right to have their own single user facility. I think no one should be forced to use a facility with someone else.

  • 12:17:52

    GOLBECKSo this is a really interesting question and one that we had sort of briefly touched on at the break. And, Maria, if we kind of bring this back to what we were talking about before the break that there are moves to either install single -- what we call gender neutral bathrooms. These are essentially bathrooms that you go in and there's a toilet and a sink and everything in there. And then you come back out into the hallway. So if you have single person bathrooms like that as Robert was saying, this eliminates the need to be in a bathroom with anyone that you might not want to be for whatever reason, right? You're just not feeling good and you just want some privacy. You have this space. I'd like you to talk about kind of the questions that come up as a policy shift. Say if you're building a new school, do we make them all gender neutral bathrooms and how that fits into this conversation.

  • 12:18:40

    NAVARROWell, the first thing that I'll say in my area of expertise is in academics, but I will say that one of the things that I've learned from talking to our community talking to architects is that there's actually different ways you can think of these spaces in a way that supports and values the need for privacy, which actually everybody wants at those particular moments. And also allows for not to point out or single out any specific student. And I do think it was important what was just mentioned around not forcing students, who are, you know, LGBTQ students or not into a certain format, but to having options and opportunity -- options for students. And I think this comes into play in the facility conversation.

  • 12:19:32

    NAVARROI think that we've also heard that many of the students -- this is an opportunity to learn about each other. And that in fact when we look at implementing different facility uses it is not as a cumbersome or worrisome topic for students as we tend to think.

  • 12:19:52

    GOLBECKYeah, I mean, that's an interesting way to reframe the conversation, because I am a cisgender woman and I never wanted to change in the locker rooms in middle school or high school. I never once took a shower after gym class in high school, and, you know, hid as much as possible not having any of the issues that come along with being transgender. So thinking about like how to maybe just make everybody more comfortable in those spaces is I think a really interesting way to think about this. Quincy, did you want to chime in?

  • 12:20:23

    DUBOISAbsolutely, I think it's an important question to ask about, you know, everybody's comfort and feeling safe, when they're in these facilities. I do think that it's also really important to not just as the way that the general public feels about sharing facilities with transgender people, but the way that transgender feel about sharing those facilities in general. I think that I'm -- to get a little bit more personal. I'm a transgender male. So I was assigned female at birth, and since then I've come into my gender. I'm male, and I'm on hormones. So that's a personal journey for me. That's not really what's necessarily relevant to the bathroom issue.

  • 12:21:05

    DUBOISBut the way that it becomes relevant is that I was too afraid and scared to use the men's restroom. I know that that's my gender identity. I know that that's correct and that's who I am. But I didn't want to get corrected or told that I was in the wrong place. It's something that's very scary to a lot of trans individuals to be singled out and really scrutinized that way. And it became clear to me after a while that I was actually more likely to get scrutiny in a women's restroom than in a men's restroom. And that was a big turning point for me when it was more comfortable for me to use a men's restroom. And it was never comfortable for me to use women's restroom.

  • 12:21:48

    DUBOISThat's I think something I would like to get clear. Is that transgender people ourselves, we -- our comfort actually also matters. It's not the way that we impose ourselves onto other people. It's actually just our personal comfort and the way that we like to go about our daily life. I don't personally love to wait until I get home or into a private area to just use the bathroom like a normal person. Using the men's restroom is something that's pretty normal for me. It's not great. It's not bad. It's just the fact of life, but using the women's restroom can be extremely stressful.

  • 12:22:22

    DUBOISThat's something I haven't had to do in a very long time. But it's -- for a lot of trans individuals, who have to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender that was assigned at birth that can be traumatizing and it can often open them up to a lot of harassment and potential abuse.

  • 12:22:38

    GOLBECKThere are -- and, of course, I don't have the statistics in front of me. There are a lot of statics about the violence that trans people face when they're using restrooms of their birth gender as opposed to their gender identity on both sides. Maria, you wanted to follow up on that.

  • 12:22:52

    NAVARROI just wanted to add Quincy pointed to this and I think it's just very important to emphasize. When we're talking about schools one of the things that we have in our guidelines is how do we put together a plan for every single student. So I appreciate so much your ability to talk about your journey, Quincy, because also when we're talking about schools and when schools are developing a plan with the student there are levels of development and growth that the student goes through in terms of their preference. And I think that's important and those plans need to evolve with the student, and hopefully also the family of the student on how we accommodate and support students.

  • 12:23:32

    NAVARROSo it may -- when it comes to facilities it may be that they feel more comfortable starting in a specific facility that is just a restroom onto itself by itself, and later transition into utilizing other restrooms. And I think that's just an important piece of developing plans in schools and talking to students and listening to their needs and what they're going through to be able to comprehensively put a plan of support in place.

  • 12:24:02

    GOLBECKI'd like to also read an email that we got here from Jill that says, the myth that girls will be in danger in bathrooms with transgender students has been debunked by studies of schools that have already adopted transgender bathroom access policies. Unsubstantiated fears about potential violence and concerns about people feeling uncomfortable are arguments that were used in the past to fight against desegregation. These kinds of baseless arguments are no more appropriate now than they were decades ago. So, she couldn't be on the phone, but that's an email from Jill.

  • 12:24:31

    GOLBECKSo, Debbie, I want to bring this back to you. Arlington Public Schools has received some pushback against their new policy. What are people objecting to?

  • 12:24:38

    TRUONGYeah, so I think similar to the pushback that you're hearing in Gloucester County, some families in Arlington have organized to push back against the rules that the school system adopted this summer that allows students to use the facilities that align with their gender identity. They are arguing that the privacy of other students may be compromised. And they've also expressed that they feel that because they hold perhaps more conservative values, that they're feeling marginalized in the school system.

  • 12:25:11

    GOLBECKAnd is anyone making the argument -- as some have with same-sex marriage -- that recognizing gender identity constitutes a violation of people's religious freedom?

  • 12:25:20

    TRUONGI haven't heard that in Arlington, said that explicitly and to that degree, but I think that you can find arguments that, you know, echo that.

  • 12:25:32

    GOLBECKMaria, has MCPS gotten any resistance to its approach to student gender identity? And how have you responded to that?

  • 12:25:38

    NAVARROWe've gotten some concerns and questions. And I think part of what we want to do is educate our community, our staff, all of our students. But, you know, I have to say that I'm very proud of being a Montgomery County resident. Our PTA, our MCC PTA group held, last May, alongside with us, a joint-LGBTQ forum last May to bring the community. And it was our first one, and it won't be our last one.

  • 12:26:09

    NAVARROAnd I think they have been really strong partners to help educate us, give us some feedback and support as we tackle this topic, and that's our goal. Our board has been very, very clear. We mentioned the Grimm case that went up to the Supreme Court, and our board was very clear. It send an amicus brief at that time, supporting this. And so we are, as MCPS staff, very clear where our board has sent its message, and that we need to continuously work to educate our staff and our students on how to support all of our students, including our LGBTQ-plus community.

  • 12:26:50

    GOLBECKLet's take a call now from Kate in Ashburn, Virginia. Kate, you're on the air. Go ahead.

  • 12:26:55

    KATEHi. I'm a Loudoun County teacher at an elementary school. And I was wondering what your school systems were doing for elementary school students. Because I know a lot of people with gender identity, and even sexual preferences, like people know this very early on. And I was wondering if there was anything being done in the elementary school to help also keep kids safe and help them feel safe.

  • 12:27:25

    GOLBECKThank you, Kate. So, I'm going to have Maria talk about policies, and then I'm going to have Robert talk to the kind of teacher issue. But, Marie, why don't you go first.

  • 12:27:33

    NAVARROI would love to talk not just policy.

  • 12:27:34

    GOLBECKPlease.

  • 12:27:34

    NAVARROI want to actually highlight, last year, one of our elementary schools was named after a civil rights and gay activist. Bayard Rustin was a school to open last year in Rockville. And I'm very, very proud of that community, the principal and the staff, because they have educated all children in learning about who Bayard Rustin was, as a member of our community and our history. And, at the same time, they have learned, and they're working through how to create a very welcoming school environment.

  • 12:28:10

    NAVARROWe use Bayard Rustin as a way to support other schools as they're thinking about how to engage with staff development and support for teachers as students may be coming to them. We've also had families at the elementary level that have transgender students that have come to us. And we create support plans to transition the family to MCPS, so that we make all staff aware. And we support the families of the students.

  • 12:28:43

    NAVARROWe've also had cases where students may not have support from their families. And I think that's where the wraparound support, and for us, in our policies and our regs, in our guidelines, it's very clear that we must support the privacy of our students. And, at the same time, support them in a plan and a comprehensive plan that involves the school to be able to educate and support their wellbeing while they're in our schools.

  • 12:29:13

    NAVARROSo, we are very proud of the work that Bayard Rustin -- and a shout-out to Bayard Rustin Elementary -- has done, because they really have created a demonstration site for us to use as more staff come in and for people to learn. I think this is definitely debunking myths and concerns, is by people really seeing it in action and learning from places that have good practices.

  • 12:29:38

    GOLBECKAnd, Robert, as president of Fairfax County Public Schools Pride, I'm sure you address this issue in a bunch of different ways.

  • 12:29:45

    RIGBYSure. One thing is parents will come to us -- I've gotten about 10 contacts this summer from parents going into school. My child is trans, or my child is transitioning. What bathroom can they use? How can we help them? How do we tell the teachers? And what I do is I direct them to the central office, the Department of Student Services, who are very welcoming, who are set up to set up programs, you know, plans and support teams and things like that.

  • 12:30:18

    RIGBYAnother thing we do within our own organization with teachers is we provide resources for teachers to let their students know that this is a welcoming classroom, be it -- I'm not wearing it today, but be it a Show Up for Trans Kid, shirt or a trans pride sticker or rainbow sticker, or discussing the nondiscrimination policy. Or when instances of bullying come up, not overreacting and having a fit, but instead taking it as a teachable moment to teach people to be more welcoming.

  • 12:30:57

    RIGBYI think Loudoun may be different from the other counties in how they treat elementary trans kids. I'm not sure. I heard some things at the schoolboard meeting this spring that were a little concerning. In Fairfax -- I'm not a spokesperson, so you can always talk to the county. But my understanding from parents is kids have access to the facilities that best suit their needs.

  • 12:31:23

    GOLBECKSo, Quincy, as a senior at your high school and someone who's been a vocal advocate for trans rights, too, do you hear from younger students who are seeking advice for how to navigate their gender identity in school, and what do you tell them?

  • 12:31:35

    DUBOISI do. I do hear from younger students sometimes, and sometimes they're students that are my age that are certainly, you know, capable and, you know, as old as I am, but are maybe just confused and starting that journey for themselves. I often will talk to students and tell them that -- I talk to them about the resources that they have. And I say that, you know, there's other trans students around you that you can talk to, even if you aren't sure if your trans or not. You know, these people are great and supportive if you're questioning even if you decide that you're not trans, or if you decide that you are or, you know, you come to that realization, I suppose.

  • 12:32:12

    DUBOISAnd then there's also organizations within the school system and within the area that aren't within the school system that have fantastic, supportive people. And I think it's really important for our trans people and young people, especially, to hear that there are people out there who are going to support them and try and help them figure things out within their own, you know, situation.

  • 12:32:35

    DUBOISAnd however their family life may be and their school life may be and whatever decision about themselves in realization that they end up coming to, that there are people out there who are going to be supportive to them. And it's always, I think, really helpful to hear, which is why I try and say it -- I always try and think of what's something I would've wanted to hear during the times I was struggling the most. So, I always try and make sure that I stress that there are people out there who are going to help them and love them no matter what.

  • 12:33:03

    GOLBECKWe're going to take a quick break. We'll be back in just a minute. Stay tuned.

  • 12:33:22

    GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck, sitting in for Kojo. We're talking about gender identity and inclusive policies in area schools. And Maria Navarro, chief academic officer for Montgomery County, one of the things that the MCPS guidelines for student gender identity include is a meeting between the student, their principal and then sometimes their parents to discuss the student's experience and what the school could do to help support the student. What kinds of things often come up at that meeting, and why is it important?

  • 12:33:48

    NAVARROWell, that's an opportunity to really discuss some of the topics that we've discussed today around facilities, use of facilities. It's also important to understand what activities the student wants to participate in, and things that may be perceived or an actual barrier to participate. Sports, athletics is one thing that comes to mind.

  • 12:34:14

    NAVARROThe social-emotional supports. Are your parents aware? Do they know? Are they supportive? Are they not supportive? Then we are able to tackle those issues, develop some support and plans. I think we've mentioned the importance of having groups that students can turn to and access. And I think that's part of ongoing work in MCPS.

  • 12:34:40

    NAVARROI will say our gender and sexuality alliance clubs at every one of our secondary schools is not fully activated yet. At all of our high schools, it is, but we're still working through middle schools. And those are just very important safe places for students to talk to each other and have a place to really come together. That's important.

  • 12:35:01

    NAVARROSo, these plans that we develop are really to look at, fully, the entire student's needs, so that we can support them, not just academically, but also in their overall wellness, and can also inform staff that need to know and what information they need to know, so that they are aware and create welcoming environments in the schools.

  • 12:35:24

    GOLBECKLet's take a call now from Jim in Arlington, Virginia. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead.

  • 12:35:29

    JIMHi. Thank you, Jen. Kudos to all your guests, particularly Quincy, who's shown such courage, commitment and I think intentionality in the way he's leading his life. Just a couple things. The way of the future is going to be, you know, general bathrooms, both sexes. No discrimination. I think it's hard right now -- much harder for the adults and whatever age you cut off the youth, to understand this. It's just like homosexuality 35 years ago, where people thought that was a matter of character or choice. And it's not, and it's going to be the same way here.

  • 12:36:11

    JIMIt's great to hear the comments about the elementary kids getting a help out, because that's what it's going to take, education. And then, 30 years from now, we'll look back and say, well, why was this ever an issue? I’m an old guy, (laugh) and I think the adults are going to need much more help than the kids. But the kids, of course, need the kind of people like Quincy and all of your other guests to help them along until it becomes a little less frightening and less dangerous to so-called ordinary people. Thank you.

  • 12:36:43

    GOLBECKJim, thanks for your call. Robert, you were nodding along, I noticed especially when Jim called himself an old guy. (laugh)

  • 12:36:49

    RIGBYJim spoke of getting used to new things. You know, I sponsor a gender and sexuality alliance, and we have three things on our shirt. We have a rainbow head, a trans pride head, and then a black-and-white striped head. And they first told me that it was about including people of different races. It turns out, it's the agender flag. But I think when they told me about it, they just didn't think I could handle that. (laugh) And when you are my generation, it takes a little bit of time to get used to new things. Respect for everybody, respect for people, listening and understand are the keys.

  • 12:37:29

    GOLBECKYeah, Quincy, you wanted to chime in.

  • 12:37:31

    DUBOISI just wanted to thank Jim so much for your comment. I think that I agree, you know, that things in the future are going to get better. And I'm hoping to be a part of that work. And I think that everybody here around this table is doing fantastic work, and is doing just a great job.

  • 12:37:45

    DUBOISAnd I think just the fact that we're all here today says a lot about the progress that we're making. And I wanted to say just that, you know, there's a lot of self-doubt that can go through a lot of trans kids' minds and a lot of worry and a lot of, you know, contemplating about whether, you know, your family or your friends or your peers will accept you.

  • 12:38:05

    DUBOISAnd I just wanted to say, you know, that, like, a lot of that it can feel scary. And a lot of that can especially come when you're, you know, dealing with older people, whether that be relatives or teachers or mentors or role models. And I think that there's a lot of, you know, there's somewhat of a good reason for that, but there's also a lot of unfoundedness to that. Because I think a lot of my greatest supporters and allies have been, you know, young people who are growing up in times where this really wasn't even talked about. And I think it's been so important for me to really just open myself up to, you know, being loved and supported, and to open other people up to loving and supporting me.

  • 12:38:43

    DUBOISI think my presence in some people's lives has been able to open their minds. And I think that my ability to do that has hopefully made the situation better for some people who aren't maybe quite as able to take that first step.

  • 12:38:58

    GOLBECKLet's take a call now from Sage in Alexandria. Sage, you're on the air. Go ahead.

  • 12:39:03

    SAGEHi. I just wanted to call in and say I am a trans person. And my life would've been irrevocably changed for the better had there been trans-inclusive policies when I was in school. And so, I just wanted to say thank you for the work that you're doing and thank you for supporting trans youth and for saying that, you know, you have a space in this world and you have a space in our school.

  • 12:39:29

    SAGEBecause I did not attend a school that had that option and had the option of me being able to be out, me being able to talk about my experience for being accepted for who I was, and the ability for young folks to be able to have folks around that even don't 100 percent understand a person's gender identity. But to say like I will accept you for who you are and I will refer to you how you desire to be referred to is amazing and incredible. And I just am really grateful and really thankful for that conversation and how it can be had nowadays. So, thanks.

  • 12:40:03

    GOLBECKThanks so much, Sage. Everyone in the studio is nodding along with you, so we really appreciate your call, as well. And, Maria, maybe you can sort of chime in here and just talk about how that kind of comment has guided the policies that have been adopted in MCPS.

  • 12:40:17

    NAVARROWell, you know, the caller -- I was reflecting on the massive work that we have. I mean, for example, in Montgomery County, we have 264-plus thousand students, and it's a large county. And we, on average, hire about anywhere between 900 to 1,000 new teachers. So, this question around educating and for people to understand -- and they don't have to have perfect vocabulary, know it well. But this concept of I respect you as an individual, I value you, I'm listening, I'm learning on your preferred pronoun, your needs, who you are is the way we've been trying to provide professional development to our staff.

  • 12:41:01

    NAVARROAnd for them to understand that -- they don't have to be experts. They just have to have some reflection on their maybe unconscious biases that they have, what they learned, what they grew up with, what they were exposed to and what they were not, in order to support their students. And their job, our job is to support and educate every single student that walks through the door.

  • 12:41:24

    NAVARROAnd so I think that's part. You don't have to be an expert. We will be developing -- I will be continuously developing my own knowledge in this topic, but so will everybody else. And I think the most important thing is welcome, respect and support. And we ask our staff constantly to seek out places where they can find specific supports and guidance, if they have questions. That begins, for our schools, at the leadership level, with the principals, but also in central office.

  • 12:41:56

    NAVARROAnd I think our central office, in multiple departments, has undergone deeper training to support the schools when they have questions. And questions are a normal part of the learning experience. And we welcome them, and we want to be able to support our staff as they are learning, as well.

  • 12:42:13

    GOLBECKLet's take one more call now from Ashton, in Washington, D.C. You're on the air. Go ahead, Ashton.

  • 12:42:18

    ASHTONHi. So, I'm a student at ECI, which is a middle and high school in D.C. And about a year-and-a-half ago, we opened up three multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms, which have had little to no problems over the year-and-a-half, as I said. And I just wanted to bring that up, because I think that sometimes we assume that multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms just won't work in a high school, for a lot of reasons. But it's something that a school community can really adjust to, and I think it's helped my school, specifically, be more comfortable for transgender and non-conforming students. So, yeah.

  • 12:42:54

    GOLBECKThanks, Ashton. We appreciate the call. So, I want to talk a little bit about some additional policy issues. And, Debbie, one of those is that another really critical aspect of students' experiences in school is whether or not their identities can be reflected on official school documents, their transcripts, other forms. For the first time this year, D.C. and Alexandria schools will offer a gender non-binary checkbox on official forms. Talk about why that matters.

  • 12:43:20

    TRUONGYeah. So, I think there are two really critical points in regard to this. I think the first is, you know, when you see that you have non-binary on a form, it sort of signals to the person filling out that form that their experience is acknowledged and accepted and welcomed. And, number two, from a practical perspective, I think having that information on school documents signals to schools what resources they need to best serve these students.

  • 12:43:49

    TRUONGSo, you know, if a student checks that they're non-binary, then a school has a sense of how many of its students are on their campus. And they can plan accordingly for things like gender-neutral restrooms, for example.

  • 12:44:05

    GOLBECKYou're also watching to see what comes next in the Gavin Grimm case. Are there other stories or questions about student gender identity in schools that you think could be significant in the future?

  • 12:44:14

    TRUONGYeah. I mean, I think that, you know, in our discussion today, we talked a lot about, you know, school systems in the D.C. region that are sort of really pushing the envelope on this and being more progressive and more welcoming. And I think it's, you know, great for the students in this region, but we also have to note that that experience isn't universal, and it's actually far from universal.

  • 12:44:37

    TRUONGAnd there are students across Virginia and elsewhere in the country whose experiences are not the same. And so, I think, you know, educators should really interrogate the question of whether or not it's fair that students, depending on where they live, are getting different educational experiences.

  • 12:44:52

    GOLBECKWe got a message from Mark who says: great show. Can you share this resource for anyone who would like to support? This is PflagDC, so that's the letter P, the word flag, DC.org. This organization covers the entire DMV region. Robert, you're nodding and, of course, can you talk about P flag, for people who aren't familiar?

  • 12:45:10

    RIGBYWe work a lot with P flag. I think my own coming-out experience 30 years ago was with P flag, but there's several P flag support groups in Fairfax County, one in Alexandria, two in Fairfax. There's a small children's group. There's the Transgender Education Association. And one thing that one of our board members is doing is starting a group for the parents of and for children of color who may not be able to access the other groups. So, P flag is a terrific resource, both for schools and for families.

  • 12:45:45

    GOLBECKAnd a resource that I often point parents to when they have a kid who comes out, and they're, like, I think I'm supportive, but I don't know what to do. It's a great place to go and get some advice there. So, Quincy, I want to end with you. We've only got about 30 seconds left. But is there more policy that you'd like to see Arlington schools adopt? Do you see, like, a next step to pursue moving into the school year?

  • 12:46:06

    DUBOISI don't know. I think that the next step is really going to depend on how the school year goes. And I think the biggest thing I can see us doing for the future is to use this new policy and to use our transgender advocates in the school systems to change hearts and minds out in the community. And I really want to thank everyone who called in. And I think you guys all did -- everybody here and everyone who called in did a fantastic job.

  • 12:46:25

    GOLBECKThanks to everyone. I'd like to specifically thank all of our guests. Debbie Truong reports on education for Virginia in the Washington Post. Maria Navarro is the chief academic officer for Montgomery Public County Schools. Quincy DuBois is a rising senior in Arlington Public Schools. It was especially great to have you here, Quincy. And Robert Rigby, Jr. is a teacher and the president of Fairfax County Public Schools Pride. Thanks to all of you for joining us, and to everyone who called in.

  • 12:46:49

    GOLBECKAnd that's today's show. It was produced by Margaret Barthel. Coming up tomorrow, we'll hear about how local groups are organizing to support Washingtonians in immigration court and ICE check-ins. Plus, Kojo sits down with author Tope Folarin to talk about his debut novel, "A Particular Kind of Black Man." That all starts tomorrow, at noon. I hope you have a wonderful afternoon. I'm Jen Golbeck, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi.

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