MCPS: No Policy is Not a Policy

MCPS%3A+No+Policy+is+Not+a+Policy

Cartoon by Kevin Ho.

MCPS: a county filled with rules and regulations, boards and commit- tees and almost every kind of admin- istrative policy. Yet, with all of these governing bodies that address numer- ous issues within the county, there is no clear cut policy written by MCPS addressing transgender students’ use of gender specific facilities.

MCPS must create a clear policy re- garding transgender students’ use of gender specific facilities such as bath- rooms and locker rooms. Without a clear countywide policy, individual schools are left to make their own choices regarding the issue, which causes confusion and inconsistency. In addition, a countywide policy is long overdue, and the longer MCPS waits to release their verdict the more problems will arise.

CHS is directly impacted by MCPS’ current policy of no policy.

According to Principal Joan Benz, there are very informal procedures that the CHS follows, and administra- tion handles each student individually.

According to a transgender junior who wished to remain anonymous, her experiences with administration and the implementation of those so called informal policies have been dismal.

According to her, when she first arrived at CHS, there was confusion over what bathroom she was allowed to use. When it was finally straight- ened out, she had to use the unisex bathroom in the nurse’s office. In order to get there she had to walk halfway around the school, and missed at most eight minutes of class time from her furthest class. Not only did she miss a substantial amount of instructional time, the bathroom is also closed dur- ing sixth period, so she could not use the bathroom like other cisgendered students did during that time.

According to the student, it took her six months of having to use a unisex bathroom before she was able to use the girl’s bathroom, and she was only able to do so because she threatened a lawsuit against the school system.

This situation could have been com- pletely avoidable if a clear, countywide policy was put in place. There would be no confusion between students and administration over what bathrooms to use, and both groups would have a straightforward policy for what rules they could follow.

These informal measures taken that change from student to student are CHS’ “procedures,” but many schools all around the county might not have the same procedures, or even any pro- cedures at all. This is because there have been no clear guidelines that have been set by the county.

The families of transgender students want their children to feel as comfort- able as possible at school, whether that means allowing them to use the bath- room that aligns with the gender that they identify with, or a separate one entirely. Both parents and students want the school to accommodate their needs. Hopefully, a school’s admin- istration should want to do the same thing, but they might not be able to as it is unclear how they are supposed to act in ordinance with the county.

Is the school supposed to allow a transgender student to use the locker room designated for the gender that they identify with, or not? And if so, what if there is parent or student back-lash at the administration?

A county policy specifically addressing MCPS’ stance on transgender student use of bathrooms and locker rooms would allow all MCPS schools to have a consistent policy, and end confusion. In addition, the policy is the policy, and all schools must follow it. If parents are upset with a county- wide policy, they must take it up with MCPS, and not the individual school. If more than one school is impacted by the same policy, MPCS will have to ad- dress it wholistically.

According to the anonymous junior, the state of Maryland has released guidelines for the school systems, and MCPS is supposedly attempting to create their own policies. But the only things she has seen happening are con- versations behind closed doors and no changes being made.

MCPS guidelines on transgender use of gender specific facilities are long overdue. It is 2016, and LGBTQ issues have been a dominating issue for the past ten years. There is no excuse for not having a ruleset on this issue, and the longer MCPS waits to issue their policy, the more confusion and frustra- tion will occur.

While MCPS has not spoken out about what they would say in a hypo- thetical policy (they were contacted for this story and did not respond), this piece is not advocating for what the MCPS policy should be, only that it needs to exist. Not having a policy can not serve as the policy.

Without a county policy regarding this pressing issue, students who need it most are left in the dark as to what their choices are to use the facilities that make them feel most comfortable.

Shape up MCPS, and give your stu- dents the policy that they not only des- perately need, but deserve.