Affirming Transgender Students

Hi Friends!
I hope everyone is safe and dry after the storm this afternoon!
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I have an upcoming action item for all of you related to nondiscrimination for transgender students. Some of our group members have shared that APS is working on an update of its Policy Implementation Procedure (PIP)related to its “Student Equal Educational Opportunities/Nondiscrimination” policy (J-2) for Transgender/Gender-Nonconforming Students. The updated draft will hopefully be posted soon on Engage (I will let you know when!) and will be an information item at an upcoming School Board meeting (currently scheduled for June 6). The hope is that the update will be implemented over the summer in preparation for the upcoming school year. However, it is possible that the School Board or Superintendent could ask for more research or work to be done on the draft, effectively delaying the improvements needed.
There is general support for these updates, however there is a group of parents/community members actively working against this effort, spreading misinformation and harmful opinions. While APS so far has been getting input from an extensive range of stakeholders and is using resources like GLSEN and the National School Boards Association, these dissenting voices could create enough doubt about the update that a School Board member might hesitate and delay implementation.
For some background about why this is not simply about a policy update, the draft changes will have a measurable positive impact on APS students who are transgender or gender nonconforming. As many studies show, transgender students experience far more violence, depression, and suicide risk than their peers, and the policies school districts implement can either reduce those risks or exacerbate them. Transgender people of color are even more at risk given the compounding factors of their race and their identity. This is an issue of equity, equality, and survival for our children.
That is why I am asking you to please speak up with positive affirmation for our transgender students once the draft is posted, to show broad support for these updates. If you feel comfortable speaking directly to our School Board members or the Superintendent, please do so during open office hours, School Board meetings, or via email or Engage. APS Leadership is generally supportive of the update, but I am told that there are still some hesitations around student privacy v. parental access that could delay approval. Arlington is way behind many other jurisdictions in implementing a transgender policy, and this puts our students at risk. Please show APS and the School Board that most families in Arlington affirm transgender and non-conforming students.
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I wanted to call your attention to a recent situation at Campbell Elementary that really missed an opportunity for learning because of overreacting and unfounded assumptions. While I certainly advocate for calling attention to situations that reinforce white supremacy and systemic racism, when we make assumptions and elevate something minor (or not there) to an extreme level, it’s nearly impossible to have a discussion or come to any balanced conclusion. There are so many ways this learning experience could have happened in a more productive way and I’m hopeful that Campbell will find a way to talk to students about the history of cotton and slavery and the discrimination that continues today. The best thing to do when something like this happens is to take the opportunity to have conversations that are open, that ask questions, that allow for listening and understanding.
This week’s news about the DOJ and APS settlement over the education of our English-learning students was a surprise to everyone I talked to. This includes some great recommendations that will hopefully address some of the inequities many of us have been advocating for over the years. We’ll have to see what the implementation looks like.
The Virginia PTA released a position statement on “Advancing Equity & Diversity” last week, which is wonderful with its outlining of specific things school districts and PTAs can do to advocate for equity and to support diverse communities.
UUCA and VOICE are holding a meeting with the Arlington County Board Chair and the Mayor of Alexandria to advocate for a portion of tax revenue from Amazon’s relocation to the area to be allocated to “housing affordability, equity in education, and equal opportunity for POC.” Join them on Sunday, June 9 from 4:30–6:15 pm at Wakefield High School.
Thank you for your work. What we do and say shows people how we value them. Try to make conscious choices about how you express the value you have for others. This is a life-long effort.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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