New school policy protects transgender students

Felix Beaudry, a senior at Berkeley High who has transitioned from female to male, told school district directors Wednesday night why he thought BUSD should adopt policies protecting agender and transsexual students. Photo: Mark Coplan?BUSD

Felix Beaudry, a senior at Berkeley High who has transitioned from female to male, told school district directors Wednesday night why he thought BUSD should adopt policies protecting transgender students. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Just weeks after an agender student was set on fire in Oakland while riding an AC Transit bus, the Berkeley Unified School District has adopted new policies to protect those who are transgender, gender fluid, or do not identify as male or female.

The school board adopted the new policies, which will go into effect immediately, by a 5-0 vote at its meeting on Wednesday Dec. 11.

The new rules will allow people born into one sex but who identify with another to use whatever bathroom or locker room they prefer. They can join the athletic team of their choice and dress however they want. They can use whatever pronoun they prefer to refer to themselves.

The school district can only question a student’s gender identity if they think the student is using the rules for an “improper purpose,” according to the new policies.

“Our staff and school community clearly recognize and actively support the rights of transgender youth,” said Julie Sinai, a member of the school board . ”That said, we cannot take tolerance, understanding and support for granted. Respect for students rights, and in this case, transgender youth, must be codified and applied consistently across the district. This policy does just that.”

Berkeley now joins San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and other cities around the state with similar laws.

In August, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act, which requires the state’s public schools to respect students’ gender identities and make sure they can fully participate in all sports and school programs. That law is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but may be postponed. A group opposed to the law, Privacy for All Students, circulated a referendum to put the law before voters. The group submitted 602,000 signatures to election officials, more than the 504,760 needed to get it on the ballot. Election officials are now verifying the signatures.

Discrimination against those who are agender or transsexual was highlighted in November, when a 16-year old Oakland youth set Sasha Fleischman’s skirt on fire while Fleischman was riding an AC Transit bus.  Fleischman, 18, does not identify as either male or female but as agender and prefers they or their as a pronoun rather than he or she. The youth charged with the crime told police he was homophobic. He is being prosecuted as an adult.

The alleged attacker, Richard Thomas, has been charged with a hate crime, but Fleischman and Fleischman’s father have questioned whether he should be tried as an adult.

The attack prompted a huge outpouring of support for Fleischman and other agender and transsexual students. Faculty, staff and students at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, where Fleischman is a senior, wore skirts in solidarity. Residents of Oakland strung up multicolored ribbons along the AC Transit bus route. There were hundreds of news stories about the attack.

Fleischman, who was burned around the legs, returned home in time for Thanksgiving.

BUSD’s policy was in the works before the attack on Fleischman, according to Judy Appel, a member of the school board . Once Gov. Brown signed AB 1266 into law, Berkeley took another look at its policies to make sure it ensured that all students have safe places to learn – something that is required by law. The new policy will provide the administrative framework to let teachers and administrators do that, she said.

School board members were moved by the remarks made by Felix Beaudry, a senior at Berkeley High, his parents, and his friends, said Appel. Beaudry transitioned from female to male while at Berkeley High and has felt supported and understood through the process by faculty and staff and his classmates, he told the board. Appel said the district wants to make sure every student feels that supported, as acceptance is critical to academic success.

Under the new policy adopted Wednesday night, BUSD will have to maintain a student’s legal name and sex on his or her transcript, but will use whatever name and gender identity the student selects on all other documents. The district also promises to investigate all complaints of bullying and harassment.

In other news, the BUSD board elected Josh Daniels as its new president for 2014

Read the BUSD policy.

Related:
March for fire victim Sasha Fleischman set for tonight (11.14.13)
Berkeley students wear skirts to support hate crime victim (11.08.13)
Teen who set fire to Berkeley student charged with hate crime (11.08.13)
Supporters rally for Berkeley student set fire on bus (11.07.13)

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  • Just Wondering

    I’m surprised that BUSD had the time to draft this policy when they are too busy to do anything about the rampant enrollment fraud in Berkeley schools…

    The policy itself reads like a very generic anti-bullying policy, and the protections it offers should have been part of any other general anti-bullying policy already in force. This feels more like copycatting other districts than like a response to a need or problem. What percentage of BUSD students are actually “transgender, gender fluid, or do not identify as male or female” and have they had problems with bullying or harassment that were not addressed by already-existing anti-bullying/harassment policies?

  • jack almost

    thank you arts and humanities academy students for showing up!

  • Slash

    So young women are now forced share the space (girls lockers and bathrooms) with individuals who might be biologically male (irrespective of gender identity) and this is ok until the “improper purpose” is determined after the fact? Talk about unintended consequences galore!

  • AutumnDenver

    To anyone who wore a skirt in solidarity, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. It’s a tremendously touching gesture and reminds us all of the goodness that still exists in this world.

  • gender is class warfare

    1) Why do we have sex-segregated locker rooms and restrooms to begin with?

    2) Will people who declare themselves gender fluid or agender be able to choose freely from either set of facilities at any time? Is choice-of-facility now something school records will record?

    3) With the policy regarding “improper use” of the rules, the district has granted itself policing power over gender identities. What criteria will the district use to decide who “really is” this or that gender identity?

    4) If the state law is defeated at referendum, will BUSD reconsider these policies?

  • guest

    Most of those problems could be eliminated by installing agender, single-person bathrooms and eliminating physical education from school and letting students who are interested in sports do them as part of an intramural program outside of education time.

  • Muri

    HAHAHAHA OH MY GOD

    I was a student at BHS 2004-2009. The principal and faculty did nothing about bullying and harassment while I was using either mens’ or womens’ restrooms. I spent a year attempting to convince the principal at that time, Jim Slemp, that we needed to create gender-neutral bathrooms, or at least convert one of the many bathrooms on campus to a gender-neutral one to protect gender non-conforming students from harassment. He looked at me at the end of months’ worth of gathering documentation to disprove that GN bathrooms inevitably led to covert sex and drug use and told me directly, “You know I’m not going to do anything about this, right?” I ended up getting a key to the staff bathrooms all the way across campus, and was questioned by staff about why I was there until I finally just relented and begged my small school counselor for a key to the staff bathroom in the A building, where it was more quiet.

    I was not allowed to join a sports team based on my gender identity; indeed, the mens’ lacrosse team went so far as to lie about weight requirements I did not fulfill when I wanted to try out. I later on found out that a cis male friend of mine much smaller and lighter had been accepted as goalie that year.

    It is appalling that it has taken a child being set on fire for BHS to implement basic guidelines to protect the safety and emotional well-being of their trans students, when SF has been doing the same thing for years. Thank you, Felix. I was the guy who was invited in to talk to you when you came out to your classmates in AHA. You are incredibly brave and you have helped improve the school experiences of every trans or otherwise gender non-conforming student who comes through BHS, and thank you Sasha, for unfortunately serving as an example of the kind of stuff many trans people in even places as liberal as the East Bay have to fear every day.

  • bgal4

    I served on the BHS safety committee during the terrible years of Jim Slemp, we heard from several GLBT teens who invariably gave up and went to Independent Studies to find freedom from harassment. Unfortunately, Berkeley is the kind of place with all the best intentions and little followup or substance.

  • guest

    If they wouldn’t enforce their already-existing bullying/harassment rules, what makes you think they’ll enforce these?

  • bgal4

    Different principal. But you are correct, without a complaint tracking system there is no reason to believe students facing harassment/threats will receive a proper response. My kids did not, BUSD couldn’t have performed worse in both situations, 1995 and 2007. My kids ended up in Independent studies.

  • dsd510

    There is pretty much no evidence of cis (non-trans) people “posing as being trans” to do anything like what you’re suggesting; and even if it happened one in a million times that doesn’t justify stripping trans basic rights.

  • Gender is a social construct

    It’s just too bad that American culture is so far behind the times when it comes to gender equality. So unenlightened. Corn fed and inhibited. In my community and my personal culture gender fluidity is not simply tolerated, it’s celebrated and encouraged. America’s extreme black & white, binary definitions of gender policed by its rabid misogyny is stifling the expression of not just a small marginalized class e.g. trans, a-gender, gender fluid individuals but its entire populace. When we can radically accept change in ways like this bill is trying to do there will be less violence against PEOPLE. Get off your Macdonalds addiction, stop beating your wife, and accept that people are people and cannot be defined by a dress or suit, baseball or barbies.

  • Get Over Yourself

    Demand whatever you want, but don’t be surprised if your attitude drives people away.

    None of what you are saying actually addresses the comment you are replying to at all. No one is saying that anyone should be oppressed, just asking if these students are not already protected under the anti-bullying and anti-harassment rules that already cover *all* students.

  • Deal With It

    Gender is a social construct. Sex is not.

  • fossil

    Every generation defines being “misunderstood” on it’s own terms. This one celebrates “gender fluidity”.

    I wish the conversation was about gender expectations and gender roles instead — nearly all of which we can safely retire. Redefining oneself around these outmoded constructs seems like an upside-down way to approach the problem.

  • crash2parties

    While I agree about sex/gender expectations and social roles, that is an attribute that is independent of a person’s sex/gender identity. There are trans people that fit into the assumed binary, and there are those who are quite genderqueer. Just like everyone else. And yet, they both felt the need to fix who everyone assumed they were.

  • skeptic

    Ever read Darkness at Noon? It wasn’t enough that the prisoner confessed. He had to believe in his own guilt. In my experience, political activists in Berkeley want the same thing from anyone that disagrees with them. It’s not enough to accede to their demands, no matter how bizarre they might seem, we have to believe in our hearts that they are right, and we have to celebrate and honor them. I’m fine with transgender folks, but that doesn’t mean that I need to go along with every single solution they propose to deal with prejudice.

  • Slash

    Sorry, having the varsity football and cheerleading squads changing in the same facilities (we are talking about high school kids here not bona-fide adults here) just does not seem like a good idea. Also doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see boys definitely trying to abuse the policy and use it to avoid discipline. Assuming that one is religious right to have concerns here is pretty disingenuous.

  • bgal4

    Yes the policies do cover ALL students and your point is very well taken. The problem in Berkeley has always been implementation.

    1. a legitimate and accountable administrative process for responding to concerns and complaint
    2. safety plans for individual students who are targets of harassment or threats.

    Gay bashing affects those perceived as gay and those who identify as gay. Not sure of the current CHKS data, but at BHS the primary form of harassment has been racial and is not limited to black youth, yet the school does little if anything about racial harassment of Asian and white youth.

    Policies and practices that treat all forms of bullying swiftly and certainly are more effective in changing cultural norms than policies which single out a particular group, which can emphasize differences over shared humanity.

  • guest

    Can you recommend some reading on the subject, either books or links to articles?

  • guest

    Actually, there are many more genetic options for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XYY_syndrome and that is just for people. For a true education about the birds and the bees, you would have to learn about ZW http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZW_sex-determination_system.

  • Before the Victorian era large shared public restrooms did not exist.

  • Put Away Your Straw Men

    Nobody said sex was binary. However it is not a social construct.

  • guest

    Not really. There are federal anti-bullying/harassment laws that aren’t enforced in BUSD either.

  • gender is class warfare

    Actually, it’s looking more and more like that is a gross
    oversimplification, useful as it was for 1970′s Second Wave Feminists
    (Hi, Mom!).

    The radical feminist critique of gender isn’t stuck in the 1970s. Responding to the radical feminist analysis of gender as a social construct by pointing out biological correlates of gender suggests you don’t actually understand what the feminists were and are saying. That’s unfortunate given how condescending you are towards “second wave feminists”.

    Roughly speaking, the radical analysis finds that gender is a kind of socially constructed caste system imposed on top of and going beyond biological fact. Nothing you are saying contradicts that analysis or suggests that it is “oversimplified”.

  • overestimating their influence

    This generation doesn’t even really care about gender fluidity. What’s happening is that the internet is magnifying the voice of a small number of screeching activists.

    With so many other more pressing issues right now like our endless wars, NSA surveillance, stagnating economy, etc, the “trans revolution” is barely a blip on the radar.

  • Berkeleysnide

    Read, “Queering Bathrooms”. Basically, before the Victorian era, everyone used the same chamber pots. Then indoor plumbing came about & women were convinced that they needed to hide any sign (sound, smell) that they had bodily functions lest they crumple from the shame of it.

    That people seek privacy when performing bodily functions is hardly a function of the plumbing. Read The Lady’s Dressing Room by Jonathan Swift for a humorous tale that clearly and directly rebuts your assertions about the pre-Victorian era.

  • crash2parties

    We may not be so far apart in viewpoint. I hope not, anyway. If we are, please educate me?

    By 2nd Wave, I was referring specifically to my Mom’s generation, which near the end of her peak involvement was no longer inclusive of many women who did not fit the “right” mold or message. But beyond that, 2nd Wave was an embracing & encompassing of the “blank slate” meme of the era, and I have issues with that stance. First, it was foisted by some very sexist male researchers to further their own careers, but also it turned out to be inaccurate based on later neurological research. We have to admit and work with that, not deny it.

    Anyway. My apologies if that sub-argument threw my original point off track.

    I completely agree with the analysis that gender (meaning social role, social appearance, social identity) is a socially constructed caste that overlays biology (I hope I summed that right, though I don’t think it’s all that radical). What I was specifically referring to was the current Radical Feminists denial of any inherent internal sense of self that is sex-dimorphic. Please, note the problematic nomenclature; “gender” is currently used, but “sexed” would be far more accurate! Also, di-morphic hides the reality that the sexing of bio traits is actually a matrix of spectra, each of whic results in two overlapping curves, which we’ve evolved to be exquisitely good at discerning.) Sadly, public discourse conflates sex with sexuality on a regular basis and gender became a stand-in to avoid that connotation. Which, of course created a different problem, that of strengthening the misdirection that social gender and inherent sex attributes are one and the same (& therefore implies that the patriarchal hierarchy is biological or otherwise intrinsic and therefore, unavoidable as well).

  • crash2parties

    We may not be so far apart in viewpoint. I hope not, anyway. If we are, please let me know where we diverge.

    By 2nd Wave, I was referring specifically to my Mom’s generation, which near the end of her peak involvement was no longer inclusive of many women who did not fit the right mold or message. But beyond that, 2nd Wave was an embracing & encompassing of the “blank slate” meme of the era, and I have issues with that stance. Not only was it was foisted by sexist male researchers to further their own careers and social power, but also it turned out to be inaccurate based on later neurological, endocrine and developmental bio research. We have to accept and work with that, not deny it if we are going to be successful in dismantling the current, oppressive structures. They are built largely on Judeo-Christian structures, not biological ones and we have to be careful to distinguish between the two or we’ll abandon some of the most vulnerable people affected.

    Anyway. My apologies if that sub-argument threw my original point off track.

    I completely agree with the analysis that gender (meaning social role, social appearance, social identity) is a socially constructed caste that overlays biology (I hope I summed that right, though I don’t think it’s all that radical). What I was specifically referring to was the current Radical Feminists denial of any inherent internal sense of self that is sex-dimorphic. Please, note the problematic nomenclature; “gender” is currently used, but “sexed” would be far more accurate! Also, dimorphic hides the reality that the sexing of bio traits is actually a matrix of spectra, each of which results in two overlapping curves, which we’ve evolved to be exquisitely good at discerning.) Sadly, public discourse conflates sex with sexuality on a regular basis and gender became a stand-in to avoid that connotation. Which, of course created a different problem, that of strengthening the misdirection that social gender and inherent sex attributes are one and the same (& therefore implies that the patriarchal hierarchy is biological or otherwise intrinsic and therefore, unavoidable as well).

  • Mel Content

    Most of those problems could be eliminated by installing agender, single-person bathrooms

    True, but that would eliminate the opportunity of the gender confusion crowd to peddle their agenda and burden everyone else with their psychological issues, wouldn’t it?

  • Mel Content

    Demand whatever you want, but don’t be surprised if your attitude drives people away.

    Thank you. Could not agree more…

  • gender is class warfare

    What I was specifically referring to was the current Radical Feminists denial of any inherent internal sense of self that is sex-dimorphic.

    The phrase “inherent internal sense of self that is sex-dimorphic” is so vague and sweeping that I can’t even guess what you might mean by it. Consequently I can’t see it as something which “radical feminists” deny or endorse; the meaning is too unclear.

    If the question is important to you, then perhaps instead of trying to summarize what you believe radical feminists think you could provide a citation to some scholarly or similarly serious work that expresses the view you are talking about?

  • crash2parties

    The view I am talking about is pretty much encompassed in the entire body of transgender research, starting with Hirschfeld’s works on the topic from the turn of the century. The 20th century, that is. I suppose you could then walk through the various works surrounding the Christine Jorgensen era that pretty much ended with Harry Benjamin and that whole crowd. But, that time period (late 60′s early 70′s) was also when the perception of the condition was so heavily influenced by some amazingly sexist “researchers” who may as well have been writing about their own social and sexual fantasies. The feminist trans woman autobiographies from that era are actually a better resource. There was also a handful of works from the early 90′s. Then Zhou et all published their crude, statistically questionable study concerning brain structures in 1994. I’ll let you walk the citation chain forward from that one as it opened up an entire new study of neurology, endocrinology and developmental biology. By 2008, 20 sex-dimorphic brian sites and attributes were known to match identity, not external primary sex characteristics, and around 300 studies had repeated, refined and expanded on zhou et all.

    Seriously, there is a century of scholarly and similarly serious work on the topic of intrinsic, inherent internal sense of ones sex identity. Transsexualism, as it used to be called, really is a thing.

  • incertus

    How was the opportunity to show up communicated to AHA families? I never heard about it… (and we are a trans family!!!) Thanks for the info!!

  • FCB

    Hey dude! This is Felix. Thanks for talking about your experience. I know that for people before me the bathroom situation at Berkeley High was horrible.