Oxford Hills School District hosts public comment period on proposed gender identity policy
NORWAY, Maine (WMTW) - Oxford Hills School District held a public forum on Monday to give community members an opportunity to comment on a proposed gender identity policy in K-12 schools.
MSAD 17 held a first reading of the policy at their last school board meeting in October. It’s intended to provide support for students of all gender and sexual identities by fostering a safe and comfortable environment free of harassment.
Data from the most recent Maine Integrated Youth Health survey shows that around 21.2% of Maine high schoolers identify as gay or lesbian, bisexual, or something other than straight.
The school board says the proposed policy is necessary to ensure that the school is in compliance with federal laws and state guidelines including Title IX.
The public comment period went on for close to three hours. Most of the speakers were against the proposed policies. Many focused on what they call parental rights.
“A seven-year-old can choose to hide their gender identity from their parents or legal guardian and the teachers, the staff, administration, coaches, they will be bound to keep this information secret,” said parent Charity Johnson.
The policy seeks to encourage students to talk through their gender and sexuality with trusted teachers and counselors privately and some worry that would allow teachers to withhold important information from parents.
“Our schools should not essentially be promoting children to live a double life, one where they are one person at school and another at home, which can be mentally and emotionally taxing,” said parent Terry Brooks. “Instead, we should be working with families to help and support children with their mental and emotional well-being.”
Supporters of the policy argue that it would create a safe space that’s essential for students whose parents aren’t supportive of their gender identity.
“There are times when these youth need expanded support from wider community to feel worthy, safe and fully valued,” said social worker Amanda Miller.
Administrations stress teachers and staff members are always obligated to notify parents if they student is in danger.
If the school board decides to move forward with the policy, they will hold a vote on whether to adopt it after a second reading. That would likely take place at the school board meeting in December.
Copyright 2022 WABI. All rights reserved.