Following backlash from parents, the Topsham School Board has further amended a proposed policy that would address transgender and gender-expansive students’ privacy rights if implemented in district schools.

The policy states that if a transgender or gender-expansive student has come out at school but not at home, staff members should use discretion and consult students about their wishes before relaying the information to their parents. After fielding concern from some district parents, the district’s Mental Health Committee and legal counsel, the proposed policy was updated to state that the superintendent should be consulted to resolve the matter on a case-by-case basis. If parents are contacted, the student is guaranteed the right to be informed. Another clause outlines what the school should do if a student has requested a name and/or gender change in school records without parental approval.

Still, many parents said they were dissatisfied by what the introduction of this policy could mean for students.

It “concerns me that the policy addresses all school-age children the same, without delineation of an age-appropriate protocol,” said Tracy Johnson-Colby of Harpswell while opposing the policy during a meeting last week.

“This is not a complicated issue,” Johnson-Colby said. “It is an issue of keeping parents informed of a medical and deeply personal decision as well as providing support that a very small population of students require.”

Corey Calderwood, a Mt. Ararat High School graduate and employee of the district for 10 years, asked audience members to “remember that the word ‘student’ in this policy refers to real people.”


“Every staff member in this district knows students who are directly affected by the adoption of this policy,” Calderwood said. “Most adult staff members can share stories of seeing a student change when they are called by the name they choose, when they are referred to by the pronouns that make them feel authentic, and when they are accepted and welcomed to express themselves in whatever way they prefer. The change we see is brightness, relief, security and joy.”

The district’s decision to directly address trans and gender-expansive students in its policies follows suit with Yarmouth and Portland, both of which adopted similar language earlier this year.

River Khoriaty, a public-school teacher at Next STEP in Lewiston and recent graduate of Bowdoin College now living in Topsham, said they “support the current [policy] because it protects children whose families may not be supportive but may not qualify for child protective services to be involved.”

The school board will next discuss the policy during its Nov. 16 meeting.

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