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Harassment regulation in Rockwood could change following students’ request

Rockwood School District is considering updating language in a regulation on harassment to make sure it allows adequate protection for transgender identity and expression.

In October, some members of Lafayette High’s Gay Straight Alliance as well as Board of Education Member Dominqué Paul asked that transgender identity and expression be added to the district’s harassment policy to promote a safe learning environment.

The district’s policy and regulations on harassment were reviewed, to ensure they protected transgender students, after problem/issue/need forms were submitted to the district in October. Legal counsel reviewed both and determined the policy didn’t need to be revised because transgender students already are protected due to a ban on discrimination and harassment due to sex. However, district legal counsel also provided new language to the board, which it is considering.

Attorney Larry Wadsack told the board on Dec. 18 that he had reviewed federal and case law in regard to the issue.

“Title 9 protections against discrimination extend to gender identity and to kids who’ve chosen not to conform to gender stereotyping, so our current policy is legally adequate to protect them,” he said.

But he said the harassment regulation language should be revised and enhanced to add new and more specific language on transgender identity and expression and behaviors for which students shouldn’t be harassed.

Some of the new language states that examples of conduct which might constitute harassment because of gender include “verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on gender or gender stereotyping including harassment based on exhibiting what is perceived as stereotypical characteristics for gender or failure to conform to gender stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”

An example in the new language of banned behavior includes “teasing a student because the student does not identify with or express himself or herself with the gender assigned to him or her at birth.”

“This would leave no doubt in a principal’s or teacher’s mind that certain behavior is prohibited,” Wadsack said.

The superintendent’s cabinet is now finalizing review and approval of the suggested regulation language revisions.

“We all share common ground with students to ensure everyone is adequately covered against harassment, and this regulation language gives specifics requested by those with concerns,” Superintendent Eric Knost said.

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