South Western school officials to take up policy restricting transgender students

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

A Hanover-based school district could soon be the second in York County to restrict which bathrooms and locker rooms its transgender students can use.

The issue will be discussed at Wednesday's South Western School Board meeting, although the contours of the specific policy remain unclear. In December, Red Lion Area School District forced its trans students to “follow the birth certificate” or use a gender-neutral bathroom option.

“This subject is one that we will be working on for some time to arrive at a workable solution for all involved,” Ray Mummert, South Western's board president, said last month.

South Western High School in Penn Township, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

South Western school officials did not respond to requests for comment in advance of Wednesday's meeting this week. The issue, however, has drawn tremendous social media scrutiny and protest from LGBTQ-rights advocates.

"All children have the right to a safe environment and an education that will prepare them for a free and open future," the Rainbow Rose Center said in a statement, encouraging the public to attend the school board meeting. "Children should be able to feel safe and respected at school."

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YWCA Hanover sent a letter to South Western administrators and the elected school board encouraging the officials not to discriminate against students in the district. The organization suggested offering LGBTQ training to board members and staff.

"Please know we support adopting policies that respect all students' gender identity and affirm students' rights to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," the letter states. YWCA Hanover provided a copy to The York Dispatch.

South Western School District Administration Office in Penn Township, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The South Western board, at the urging of board member Matthew Gelazela, voted last month to discuss its bathroom policies and take action at the following meeting. Students and residents addressed the board about the issue in the last meeting; some were in favor of restrictive policies while others were not. 

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Meanwhile, in Red Lion, parents and community members continue to pressure the school board to hold a promised forum on its transgender policies. The forum was canceled in December due to safety issues and has not been rescheduled.

State legislatures nationwide, including in Pennsylvania, are taking up a raft of policies restricting trans students from joining athletic teams, using restrooms and having access to gender-affirming health care.

Most recently, Kentucky state lawmakers passed one of the nation's most restrictive anti-trans laws over a veto from that state's governor. On the same day, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill banning hormone therapy and reversible puberty blockers for those under the age of 18.

South Western School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 225 Bowman Road, Hanover. The meeting can be attended in person or watched online through the district's YouTube channel at

— Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.