What are local school districts' policies affecting transgender students?

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

On Dec. 30, a federal appeals court sided with a Florida school district's policy directing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their biological sex or gender-neutral bathrooms.

This policy is similar to Red Lion Area School District's emergency guidance made in early December. There was supposed to be a forum for the board to hear the public's feelings on transgender students' use of bathrooms and locker rooms and participation on sports teams. The district postponed the forum.

The Florida court case arose because a student wasn’t allowed to use the boys' bathroom, which resulted in his suing the district in 2017. A judge said the policy doesn’t break the law because it is based on biological sex rather than gender identity. 

An all gender restroom sign at Archetype Pizza in York City, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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However, the decision wasn’t cut and dry because the court split down the party lines. Seven sided with the district while four sided with the former student. 

But how are other York County school districts handling this matter? 

After searching the other 15 public school districts' policies to find out which address LGBT issues, seven districts listed “gender identity” in their policies.

The rest didn't list gender identity in their policies, but all districts said in their policies that they will not tolerate any discrimination.

Keywords such as bathroom, locker room, transgender, gender and Title IX were used to search the policies.  

  • Northeastern School District’s policy said it will “prioritize the principle of educational equity through the fair and just allocation of resources, opportunities and treatment of students based upon each individual student’s needs.” 

To do so, Northeastern will identify and address barriers that create gaps. 

The district also defined what gender means, which included gender identity and expression. 

It also said it wants to create a “welcoming, inclusive and bias-free culture and environment.”

An all gender restroom sign at Archetype Pizza in York City, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo
  • West Shore School District's policies say students shall not be harassed based on their religion, gender, gender identity, disability and more.

The policy also states it will provide equal access to employment regardless of race, marital status, gender identity, sexual orientation and genetic information. It also said any reports of discrimination that don’t meet Title IX sexual harassment definition but are based on sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and more will follow discrimination complaint procedures. 

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  • Dallastown Area School District has The Trevor Project listed in its suicide prevention resources. The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 to focus on stopping suicide in the LGBT youth community. 

The district's guidelines explain risk factors, such as depression, low self-esteem, “lack of family and/or peer support for gender identity/sexual orientation,” homelessness and more. 

Dallastown's Title IX policy's purpose is to create a "safe, nurturing, healthy and non-discriminatory learning and teaching environment." The statement said the district will not discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, disability and more.  

The dress code is also supposed to be gender neutral. 

“Schools cannot enforce specific attire based on gender,” the policy said. “Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity within the constraints of the dress codes adopted by the school.”

It added this policy also applies to school-sponsored activities.

  • A search for “Title IX” on Central York School District’s policies brings up the human resources department and access to the Title IX policy regarding discrimination of age, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information and more. 
FILE - Philadelphia's altered gay pride flag is seen outside City Hall on  June 19, 2017, in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania government regulations would be revised with extensive definitions of sex, religious creed and race under a proposal set for a vote on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022 — a change some Republican lawmakers see as an overreach on a subject they think should not be addressed without legislation. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
  • York City’s policy said students can't be discriminated against for sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, national origin and more. 

It also had a policy stating admission is open to everyone regardless of ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and more. 

  • York Suburban’s policy has a page with multiple links for "know your rights," a discrimination report form and a full overview of Title IX. 

The full overview said the district "does not discriminate in any manner," and it strives to maintain an environment that makes everyone feel safe. 

On the "Know your rights" page, it said Title IX doesn't only apply to female students. 

"Male and gender non-conforming students are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence," it said. 

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It goes on to say schools cannot discourage sex discrimination survivors from continuing their education because they have a right to remain at school. 

The policy provides equal opportunity for everyone regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, ancestry and more. Also, a policy about the distribution of literature and commercial advertising says it cannot be derogatory based on gender, sexual or gender orientation and more. 

  • Spring Grove's policy also doesn't allow discrimination against "sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity," and more. 

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Eastern York, West York, Dover, Hanover, South Western, Southern York, South Eastern and Northern York School District’s Title IX policies do not list gender identity but do list sex and sexual orientation. 

All of the districts do say in the policies that the “District does not discriminate in any manner, including Title IX sexual harassment, in any district education program or activity.”

They also say discrimination is inconsistent with students' rights and the district's goals, which means it is prohibited. 

South Western School District's policy 103.1 added specifically listed actions such as offensive jokes, slurs, mockery, offensive objects or pictures and “other conduct that may be harmful or humiliating or interfere with a person’s school or school–related performance” as prohibited.

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

Editor's note: The Florida appeals court case mentioned in this article was incorrectly identified. The article has been updated with the correct date.