Oxford Hills School District Holds Public Comment Period on Proposed Gender Identity Policy

NORWAY, Maine (WMTW) — The Oxford Hills School District held a public forum on Monday to give community members an opportunity to comment on a proposed gender identity policy for K-12 schools.

MSAD 17 held a first reading of the policy at its last school board meeting in October. It aims to provide support to students of all genders and sexual identities by fostering a safe and comfortable environment free from harassment.

The most recent data Maine Youth Integrated Health A survey shows that about 21.2% of Maine high school students identify as gay or lesbian, bisexual, or something other than straight.

The school board says the proposed policy is necessary to ensure the school is in compliance with federal laws and state guidelines, including Title IX.

The public consultation period lasted almost three hours. Most speakers were against the proposed policies. Many have focused on what they call parental rights.

“A seven-year-old child can choose to hide their gender identity from their parents or legal guardian and teachers, staff, administration, coaches, they will be required to keep this information secret,” the parent said. Charity Johnson.

The policy aims to encourage students to talk about their gender and sexuality with teachers and trusted counselors in private and to worry about who would allow teachers to withhold important information from parents.

“Our schools shouldn’t be essentially encouraging kids to live a double life, one where they’re one person at school and another at home, which can be mentally and emotionally taxing,” parent Terry Brooks said. “Instead, we should be working with families to help and support children with their mental and emotional well-being.”

Proponents of the policy argue that it would create an essential safe space for students whose parents do not support their gender identity.

“There are times when these young people need increased support from the community to feel worthy, safe and fully valued,” said social worker Amanda Miller.

Administrations emphasize that teachers and staff members are still required to inform parents if their student is in danger.

If the school board decides to go ahead with the policy, it will hold a vote to adopt it after a second reading. This would likely take place at the school board meeting in December.

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