Sarasota County School District releases new guidelines for gender diverse students

Guidelines serve as framework for safe environment

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota County School District released new guidelines on Wednesday for gender diverse students.

The guidelines function as an extension of the existing anti-discrimination policy as set forth by the School Board. It serves as framework for school leaders to ensure a safe and productive learning environment for all students including LGBTQUIA students. 

Vanessa Nichols has a son who is transgender. He attends the 4th grade at an elementary school in Sarasota County. 

"It was everything for him to trust me with that information. I think I set him up for success just to be who he is," said Nichols. 

Nichols applauds the new guidelines. 

"It's definitely going to make a safer environment for them," said Nichols.

The guidelines outline the use of restrooms and locker rooms.

The guidelines state, "A school cannot require transgender students to use their own private bathrooms unless it does the same for all students. But the guidance also suggests that schools are free to come up with alternate facilities- including faculty restrooms or single-user restrooms and offer them to transgender students if they're more comfortable using them." 

"It's really just creating that safety net so our transgender students can learn just like every other student and it isn’t about bathrooms it is just about learning," said Nichols.

The guidelines also read:

"A transgender student shall be addressed by the name and gender requested. All relevant teachers and administrators and staff shall be informed of a transgender student's name and gender pronoun. The student's name and gender pronoun does not need to correspond to the student's birth certificate and other official records. It's up to the student, and the student alone to share his/her/their identity. In the case of elementary-age students often the student and parent are involved, however, this is on a case by case basis." 

The Chairman of the Sarasota County School Board, Bridget Ziegler, said she disagrees with this portion of the new guidelines. She feels parents should always be involved.

"We can’t strip parents of their rights. They need to be a part of this discussion. We need to have them help us lead with their child on what the best solution is," said Ziegler.

"This is a critical decision that the parents should be there, voice their opinion, work together with the school," she added.

Ziegler also said she felt parents and students should have been asked for feedback before district officials drafted these guidelines.

"There is no question, the majority of this community, if not all, want to see their government and how they’re working and making decisions," said Ziegler.

Ziegler plans to bring up a discussion on the new guidelines at the next board meeting on November 6.

Click here to read the school district's gender diverse student guidelines.

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