DALLAS — On Nov. 16, the Dallas School District sent a letter to parents of students in physical education classes with a transgender student who is being allowed to use the locker room of the gender he identifies as.
The letter outlined the district’s policy, which in accordance with federal law, prohibits “discrimination on the basis of sex or gender pursuant to ‘Title IX’ federal laws.”
“The legal guidance regarding the enforcement of ‘Title IX’ is very clear that transgender students have the right to ‘same sex’ facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms based on the gender they identify with, not based on their biological gender,” the letter read.
The rights of transgender students are included in the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which also prohibits discrimination or harassment against staff or students based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and national or ethnic origin, to name a few.
Transgender is included in “sexual orientation” for the purposes of the policy, which states: “sexual orientation means an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender identity regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that which is traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”
Superintendent Michelle Johnstone said the district’s enforcement of the policy was determined only after consulting with the district’s lawyer, representatives from Oregon Department of Education and Oregon School Boards Association, Dallas School Principal Steve Spencer, and Athletic Director Tim Larson, the district’s Title IX director.
“It’s not an overnight thing,” Johnstone said.
Also, high school officials met with students who would be affected by the policy to explain what it meant. Johnstone said very few expressed concerns or asked questions in those meetings. Students were asked to take the letter home and discuss it with their parents. Assistant Superintendent Dennis Engle said the district has received calls from six parents who had concerns, but most understood that the district was following the law.
Engle added because of the federal laws involved, this is not a decision that could be made by the Dallas School Board.
The timing of the letter coincided with controversy over statements made by a Dallas city councilor regarding transgender students, but that had no bearing on district policy or its practical applications, Johnstone said.