Two information items on the Loudoun County School Board’s Tuesday meeting agenda involved verbal conduct in Loudoun County Public Schools facilities, particularly use of gender pronouns and name-calling, though discussion of both items was postponed due to time constraints.
On Dec. 3, the board’s Equity Committee voted unanimously to propose changes to LCPS Policy 1040, “Equal Opportunity for Equitable, Safe and Inclusive Environment,” which would require school staff to address students by their chosen gender pronouns — either at an adult student’s own request, or that of a minor’s parent or guardian.
In the case of minors, the Equity Committee proposed school principals or designees should collaborate with the school’s Unified Mental Health Team to “develop a plan to support the student’s needs related to gender expression requests,” according to board documents.
“All persons have the right to be addressed by the names and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity without any substantiating evidence,” the draft policy reads.
Earlier Tuesday, Beth Barts (Leesburg District) spoke out in favor of the draft language via Facebook, citing a 2018 Reuters Health article that says transgender adolescents “are far more likely to attempt suicide than teens whose identity matches what it says on their birth certificates,” especially youth who were born female but identify as male.
“Knowing this, LCPS can do our part to save lives by addressing how we will handle staff who misgender students, use ‘dead names’ or students who bully by making clear we support all [students’] right to learn in a safe environment,” Barts wrote.
A transgender person’s dead name is the name they were designated at birth but stopped using after transition.
LCPS is no stranger to controversy regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. During a February 2019 meeting, after extensive public comment and discussion, the school board voted narrowly to pass an equal opportunity statement protecting students and staff on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, an action the board declined roughly a year prior.
Last December, the board further approved language concerning LGBT matters to be added to the school system’s Equal Opportunity Employment Policy, an action that endured its own share of debate.
Gender identity was also among the topics the Equity Committee addressed in its draft “No Name-Calling Week Proclamation,” which would dedicate Jan. 18-22, 2021, to “activities and lessons designed to reduce name-calling and bullying” in Loudoun schools, according to the board documents.
Founded in 2004 by GLSEN — formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network — in collaboration with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, No Name-Calling Week encourages K-12 educators to “not merely [recognize] the importance of kindness, but actively [add] kindness into our every action,” according to the GLSEN.
Atop LGBT issues, the school board draft proclamation also seeks to address harassment on the basis of physique, ethnicity, disability, race, religion, social or academic standing, among other topics.
The School Board plans to reconvene its Tuesday meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m., during which members will presumably discuss the changes to Policy 1040 and the proposed “No Name-Calling Week Proclamation.”