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No changes to transgender student rights planned by Pasco schools

Some conservative groups are petitioning for different rules.
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times
Published Feb. 26, 2019
Updated Feb. 26, 2019

New policy proposals governing transgender student rights and parent permission for clubs are not part of the package coming to the Pasco County School Board when it holds a March 5 workshop.

“We have no plans to make any changes,” district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Tuesday, echoing repeated statements from top district leaders since conservative groups began clamoring for policy revisions.

Groups have asked the district to restrict restroom use to a person’s birth certificate gender. They also have pushed for parental approval forms for children to participate in school clubs.

They have demanded a variety of other moves beyond those, as well, such as a guarantee that teachers will not be forced to use “false gender pronouns” and a denunciation of the district’s current best practices guide for working with LGBTQ students. Some have begun a petition drive, according to WFLA.

The district also has been inundated with emails encouraging the board to stand firm.

Since the pressure began mounting in October, after an incident at Chasco Middle School, board members have allowed dozens of speakers to comment about the issues during public meetings. They have made no effort, though, to pursue any change of course.

They have suggested that the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying rules sufficiently protect all students. And they have raised questions about the notion of requiring a permission slip to take part in school activities.

“I am concerned about unintended consequences, and it being a slippery slope,” vice chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin said Tuesday.

Beaudoin said if parents don’t want their children to participate in certain clubs, they can have that conversation at home and enforce it themselves. To have the district try to police whether students attend clubs, particularly after class hours, could be an enforcement nightmare, she added.

Beaudoin and others did not, however, close the door to the possibility of having the schools post their club lists publicly and allowing parents to send a letter asking that their child not be allowed into ones they find objectionable.

“I am, I guess, open to considering options,” board member Allen Altman said, adding that he is researching the way other school districts deal with the situation.

Some speakers have referred to the Lake and Marion county school districts as examples.

The Lake district has required a consent form for at least five years. Marion schools list on their websites several requirements to participate, including that students “must complete a student participation and Parental Approval Form prior to joining any club.”

Altman said he will continue to look into other examples in the days leading to the board workshop.