GENDER IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION
The Northfield City Board of Education believes that a school culture that supports student achievement, respects the values of all students and fosters understanding of gender identity and expression within the school community is a safe learning environment. New Jersey law and district policy require that all programs, and activities be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Therefore in keeping with these mandates the board is committed to creating a safe learning environment for all students and to ensure that every student has equal access to all school program and activities.
The board believes that fostering this understanding successfully requires cooperation and good communication between the parents/guardians, school administration, school staff and the school community. The superintendent shall ensure that students with gender identity or expression concerns and their parents/guardians shall be given the opportunity to discuss these issues and participate in the educational planning and programing for their student. The superintendent may consult the experiences and expertise of qualified school staff as well as external resources where appropriate.
To proactively plan for a safe learning environment free of discrimination and harassment students and parents/guardians of students with gender identity and expression concerns are encouraged to alert the school district and schedule a meeting with the superintendent. Upon request, the superintendent shall schedule a meeting with the parent/guardian and the student for the purpose of evaluating the needs of the student and planning any accommodations that may be considered to facilitate a respectful and comfortable school program that supports the student’s achievement.
- “Gender identity” is a person’s deeply held sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender, regardless of the gender they were born with. Everyone has a gender identity.
- “Transgender” is a term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from their gender at birth.
- “Gender expression” Means external manifestations of gender, expressed through a person’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice and/or body characteristics. Society identifies these cures as masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.
- “Assigned sex at birth (ASAB)” refers to the biological sex designation recorded on a person’s birth certificate upon the initial issuance of that certificate, should such a record be provided at birth.
- “Gender assigned at birth” refers to the gender a child is assigned at birth or assumed to be, based on their biological sex assigned at birth.
- “Sexual orientation” describes a person’s enduring physical romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. A transgender person may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual. For example, a person who transitions from male to female and is attracted solely to men may identify as a straight woman.
- “Gender non-conforming” describes a person whose gender expression does not conform to the gender expectations of their family or community. Gender nonconformity is not necessarily an indication that a youth is transgender; many non-transgender youth do not conform to stereotypical expectations.
- “Transition” refers to the process in which a person recognizes that their authentic gender identity is not the same as the gender assigned at birth, and develops a more affirming gender expression that feels authentic. Some individuals socially transition, for example, through dress, use of names and/or pronouns. Some individuals may undergo a physical transition process; the process is more accurately described as “gender-confirming.”
- “LGBTQ” is an acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning.”
- Gender expansive/gender diverse/gender fluid/gender non-binary/agender/gender queer” are terms that convey a wider, more flexible range of gender identity and/or expression than typically associated with the binary gender system. For example, students who identify as gender queer or gender fluid might not identify as boys or girls; for these students, the non-binary gender identity functions as a student’s gender identity.
- “Cisgender” refers to individuals whose gender identity, expression, or behavior conforms with those typically associated with their sex assigned at birth.
Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying
The board is committed to maintaining a safe and supportive learning and educational environment and shall take all the measures required by law and board policies 5131.1 Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying and 2224, 3111.1/42111.1 and 6121 Nondiscrimination/Affirmative Action to prevent harassment, intimidation, bullying and discrimination on account of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disabilities, social or economic status, pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy related disabilities, actual or potential parenthood, family status or other distinguishing characteristic.
Complaints alleging discrimination shall be reported to the school affirmative action office according to board policies (2224, 4111.1/4211.1 and 6121 Nondiscrimination/Affirmative Action).
Any student experiencing or observing harassment, intimidation and/or bullying is encouraged to report the incident to a member of the school staff. Any staff member observing or receiving a report of harassment, intimidation or bullying shall report the incident to the principal the same day the incident is observed or report receive according to board policy 5131.1 –Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying. All reported incidents of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying shall be promptly investigated and resolved according to law and board policy.
During a harassment, intimidation, or bullying investigation the district is obligated to implement procedures, pursuant to law (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2viii) to report, verbally and in writing, an act of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) committed by an adult or youth against a student. The anti-bullying specialist shall inform the student of the school’s obligation to report the findings of the HIB investigation pursuant to law (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-15(d) and board policy 5131.1 Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying. In accordance with law and board policy the parents or guardians of the students who are parties to the investigation are permitted to receive information about the investigation limited to the nature of the investigation, whether the district found evidence of harassment, intimidation, or bullying or whether disciplinary action was imposed or services provided to address the incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
The anti-bullying specialist shall take into account the circumstances of the incident when providing notification to parents or guardians of all students involved in the reported harassment, intimidation, or bullying incident and when conveying the nature of the incident, including the actual or perceived protected category motivating the alleged offense, pursuant to law (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2viii(2)).
Confidentiality and Privacy
School personnel may not disclose any information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender non-conforming status, except as allowed by law. Under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), only those school employees with a legitimate educational need may have access to a student’s records or the information contained within those records. Disclosing confidential student information to other employees, students, parent/guardians, or other third parties may violate privacy laws, including but not limited to FERPA. Transgender students have the ability, as do all students, to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and decide when, with whom, and how much of their private information to share with others. The school counselor shall work with the student to create an appropriate confidentiality plan regarding the student’s transgender or transitioning status.
The board shall not be responsible for the disclosure of information that may reveal a student’s transgender or gender non-conforming status made by community members or any other party that are not under the employment or direction of the board. The board directs the counseling staff to address the limitations of confidentiality with the student as it pertains to community members and other parties that are not under the employment or direction of the board.
Due to a specific and compelling need, such as the health and safety of a student or an incident of bias-related crime, a school district may be obligated to disclose a student’s status. The school district should inform the student that the school intends to disclose the student’s transgender status for the student’s protection and wellbeing. Prior to disclosure, the student should be given the opportunity to personally disclose that information. School districts should make every effort to ensure that any disclosure is made in a way that reduces or eliminates the risk of re-disclosure and protects the transgender student from further harassment. Those measures may include the facilitation of counseling for the student and the student’s family to facilitate the family’s acceptance and support of the student’s transgender status.
School personnel shall keep confidential a current, new, or prospective student’s transgender status. When a student uses a chosen name, the student’s birth name shall be kept confidential by school and district staff.
Students who do not want their parents/guardians to know about their transgender status shall be addressed on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, notifying parent/guardian carries risks of the student, such as being kicked out of the home. Prior to notification of any parent/guardian regarding the transition process, school staff should work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the parent/guardian will be involved in the process and must consider the health, well-being, and safety of the transgender student. The school counselor shall balance the rights to the student needing support and the requirement that parents/guardians be kept informed about their child. In accordance with law, parents/guardians and/or the appropriate local officials shall be informed when there is any suspicion of injury or harm to the student or other students.
Coordination of School Accommodations
In planning appropriate accommodations for a student who is transgender, the superintendent, parents/guardians and the student and other qualified staff or consultants as necessary shall meet to discuss actions that the district and school personnel may take to create a safe learning environment, including:
- Names/Pronouns –
School staff shall be directed to address the student by the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school. Students are not required to obtain a court ordered name and/or gender change or to change their student records as a prerequisite to being addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity. To the extent possible and consistent with these guidelines, school personnel shall make efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status.
- Sports and Physical Education
Transgender students shall be provided the same opportunities to participate in physical education as are all other students. Generally, students may be permitted to participate in physical education and sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school. Participation in competitive interscholastic athletic activities will be resolved on a case-by-case basis and according to the standards established by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).
- Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility
The district aims to support transgender students while also ensuring the safety and comfort of all students. The superintendent together with the parents/guardians, student and other qualified staff or consultants shall evaluate options for the use of restrooms and locker rooms by the transgender students and consider the following factors, including, but not limited to:
- The transgender student’s preference;
- Protecting student privacy;
- Maximizing social integration of the transgender student;
- Minimizing stigmatization of the student;
- Ensuring equal opportunity to participate;
- The students’ ages; and
- Protecting the safety of the students involved.
Generally students may have access to the restroom or locker room that corresponds to the gender identity or expression that they consistently assert at school and no student shall be forced to accept an accommodation with which he/she disagrees. A transgender or transitioning student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy may be provided with reasonable alternative arrangements. Reasonable alternative arrangements may include the use of a private area, or a separate changing schedule, or use of a single stall, gender neutral restroom. Any alternative arrangement shall be provided to the extent possible in a way that protects the student’s ability to keep his or her transgender status confidential.
A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity or expression consistently asserted at school.
- Gender Segregation in Other Areas
As a general rule, in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities (i.e. overnight field trips), students may be permitted to participate in accordance with the gender identity or expression consistently asserted at school. Activities that may involve the need for accommodations to address student privacy concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis considering the facts set forth above.
- Dress Code
Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity or expression that is consistently asserted at school, within the constraints of the school policy for student dress (5132 Student Dress). School staff shall not enforce a school’s dress code more strictly against transgender and transitioning transgender students than other students.
The superintendent and/or his/her designees are expected to work closely with the student and his/her parents/guardians in formulating an appropriate plan regarding the confidentiality of the student’s transgender or transitioning status that works for both the student and the school. Privacy considerations may also vary with the ages of the student.
Where the transgender or transitioning student feels more supported and safe when other students are aware that they are transgender or transitioning, school staff shall be given guidance and training appropriate for facilitating a respectful school climate. School personnel may be directed to work closely with the student, parents/guardians, other family members and other staff members on a plan to inform and educate the student’s peers. It may also be appropriate to engage external resources to assist with educational efforts.
Resources for Transgender or Transitioning Students
If a school staff member observes that a gender identity issue is creating challenges for a student at school or if a student indicates an intention to transition, the staff member shall alert the school counselor and encourage the student to meet with the school counselor if appropriate. School staff shall make every effort to support the student and encourage the support and respect of student peers and staff during school.
When a student indicates an intention to transition, the school counselor, as appropriate, shall offer assistance and provide the student, and/or their parents/guardians as appropriate, with information, resources and referral services regarding the issues associated with gender identity and expression and/or formal gender transition. The school counselor shall also provide information regarding gender transition planning at school. The counselor shall coordinate the measures planned and taken at school for supporting the student and creating a sensitive supportive environment at school. These measures may include:
- Making resources available to parents/guardians who have additional questions or concerns;
- Developing age-appropriate lessons for students about gender diversity and acceptance: and
- Staff training surrounding vigilance to prevent possible harassment, intimidation and bullying issues that may arise for transgender or transitioning students.
Reports of harassment, intimidation and bullying shall be promptly investigated and resolved according to board policy 5131.1 Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying.
When a student has expressed a preference to be called by a name other than their birth name, the permanent student records containing the student’s birth name shall be kept in a separate confidential file. This file shall only be shared with appropriate school staff after consultation with a student. A separate file containing records bearing the students chosen name may also be kept.
If a student has previously been known at school or in school records by a birth name, the principal shall direct school personnel to use the student’s chosen name and not the student’s birth name. To ensure consistency among teachers, school administrators, substitute teachers and other staff, every effort shall be made to immediately update student education records (for example, attendance records, transcripts, individualized education programs, etc.) with the student’s chosen name and gender pronouns, consistent with the student’s gender identity and expression, and not circulate records with the student’s birth name unless directed by the student:
- The district shall report to the New Jersey Department of Education through NJ SMART a student’s name or gender based upon that student’s chosen name and corresponding gender identity. Changing the name or gender identity from what was reported in previous years will not affect the reliability of the data reported;
- If a district changes a student’s name or gender identity, it must also maintain locally a separate record reflecting the student’s legal name and sex assigned at birth until receipt of documentation of a legal change of name or gender.
The separate record reflecting the student’s legal name and sex assigned at birth may be changed to reflect a change in legal name or gender only upon receipt of documentation that such legal name and/or gender have been changed pursuant to applicable law. The following documentation may be provided:
- A court order or birth certificate demonstrating the student’s new name;
- For a legal change of gender, the student must provide a birth certificate indicating the student’s legal gender, or a valid passport indicating the student’s legal gender.
Adopted: September 26, 2016
Update: October 25, 2021
Gender Identity, Transgender, Gender Expression, Gender Non-conforming
Legal References: N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1 Bias intimidation
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 Harassment
GENDER IDENTITY OR EXPRESSION (continued)
N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. Law Against Discrimination
N.J.S.A. 18A:65 Inquiry as to religion and religious tests prohibited
N.J.S.A. 18A:6-6 No sex discrimination
N.J.S.A. 18A:261 Citizenship of teachers, etc.
N.J.S.A. 18A:26-1.1 Residence requirements prohibited
N.J.S.A. 18A:292 Equality of compensation for male and female teachers
N.J.S.A. 18A:3714 Harassment, intimidation, and bullying defined; through-19 definitions
N.J.S.A. 18A:3620 Discrimination; prohibition
N.J.A.C. 6A:7-1.1 et. seq. Managing for Equality and Equity in Education
N.J.A.C. 6A:30-1.1 et seq. Evaluation of the Performance of School Districts
N.J.A.C. 6A:3212.1 Reporting requirements
N.J.A.C. 6A:3214.1 Review of mandated programs and services
Executive Order 11246 as amended
29 U.S.C.A. 201 – Equal Pay Act of 1963 as amended
20 U.S.C.A. 1681 – Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
42 U.S.C.A. 2000e et seq. – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972
Comprehensive Equity Plan, New Jersey Department of Education
Doe v. Regional School Unit 26, No. 12-582 (Me. Jan 30, 2014)
NJSIAA, Constitution, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, Transgender Policy (pg. 75),
Possible Cross References:
*2224 Nondiscrimination/affirmative action
*4111 Recruitment, selection and hiring
*4111.1 Nondiscrimination/affirmative action
*4131/4131.1 Staff development; inservice education education/visitations/conferences
*4211 Recruitment, selection and hiring
*4211.1 Nondiscrimination/affirmative action
*4231/4231.1 Staff development; inservice education/visitations/conferences
Continuation to Possible Cross References:
*5131.1 Harassment, intimidation and bullying
*5145.4 Equal educational opportunity
*6121 Nondiscrimination/affirmative action
*6145 Extracurricular activities
*Indicates policy is included in the Critical Policy Reference Manual.
The following organizations provide support to transgender individuals:
- GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) model policy. GLSEN is a prominent organization supporting GLBT youth. They have resources about creating safe and supportive environments for students.
- The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.