Topsham-area students will decide whether school officials inform their parents if they identify as transgender at school under a policy adopted by the Maine School Administrative District 75 board last week.

The change – aimed at protecting the privacy of students who identify as transgender (someone who identifies as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth) or gender expansive (a more broadly inclusive term which includes people who identify as trans, nonbinary or gender fluid) – comes after three months of review, debate and revision.

The school board unanimously backed the new policy, which goes into effect Feb. 23.

Much of the controversy had been focused on Section C of the policy, which states that, in the case of a student who hasn’t informed their parent or guardian of their gender identity, the student’s school counselor should discuss parent/guardian involvement with the student before informing them to “avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk.”

The policy outlines that if the parents have no knowledge of the student identifying as trans or gender expansive, “the Superintendent should be consulted, and the matter resolved on a case-by-case basis.” The student will always be notified prior to their parent being contacted about their gender identity.

“The adoption of (the policy) establishes important protections and guidance to ensure transgender students have access to a safe, inclusive education that supports their rights and dignity,” said interim Superintendent Heidi O’Leary after the school board voted to adopt the policy.

In addition to the provisions it makes for students who do not feel comfortable coming out at home, the policy ensures that students in its district will “be addressed by all school staff, (including but not limited to) substitutes, coaches, volunteers and other students by the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity that is asserted at school.”

SAD 75 serves students from Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell.

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