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Schools Seek Gender Inclusiveness

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By Beth Hauptle

Last fall, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) distributed “Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” to school system administrators in an effort to protect students identifying as transgender or gender nonconforming. The guidelines seek to foster inclusiveness, covering definitions, student privacy, names and pronouns, transitions, restroom and locker use, athletics, dress codes and clubs, according to a memorandum introducing them. 

Brian Bassett, senior communication strategist for the school system, says that HCPSS has had informal supports in place to support transgender and gender nonconforming students, their families and school community for several years. 

What is new, he says, is that HCPSS has worked to deepen its understanding of  students’ needs and “to support them in a more comprehensive manner by training staff, developing guidelines and engaging stakeholders.” Before developing the guidelines, HCPSS staff met with LGBTQ students, staff and community partners to seek input and to ensure that the staff guidelines align with the student needs. 

Bassett says the best story is the one that never has to be told. “It’s the student who doesn’t suffer from acts of discrimination because they are in an inclusive environment,” he says. The guidelines, he says, will help to ensure that students don’t have obstacles that can derail their overall well-being and success. 

Ultimately, Bassett says, HCPSS is committed to providing an education and work environment that is free from discrimination, while fostering opportunities for all its students.

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