A group of parents lobbied the Deptford board of education to repeal a state education policy on protecting transgender students during public comments at the board’s Jan. 23 meeting.
New Jersey Education Policy 5756 was first made public in 2017, when Gov. Chris Christie signed a transgender anti-discrimination measure as part of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) that many state school districts – including Deptford – adopted.
The parent group argued at the board meeting that they feel the measure intrudes on parental rights, since it states that a school must accept a student’s chosen gender identity even without parental consent.
“It doesn’t allow parents to know what’s going on with their students,” said Patricia Kline, “and we’ve been asking you time and time and time to visit this policy and to eliminate the policy, if you really want to protect parental rights.
“When children are damaged, emotionally, mentally and physically, they come home to their parents. And most parents don’t know what’s going on, because of this 5756 policy.”
Kline also stated that the Vineland school district is in talks on repealing the policy. Another parent, Jill Picklo, expressed concerns similar to Kline’s.
“I think that the parents need to know what is going on with their children,” she argued. “A 6-year-old can’t go into a casino and gamble, a 10-year-old can’t buy alcohol and a 16-year-old can’t buy cigarettes and a 15-year-old can’t vote. I don’t think they’re old enough to walk into a school district and say that they’re a different gender.”
On the other side of the argument, some believe that repealing the policy would intrude on a student’s civil rights and could lead to a school becoming a dangerous environment for transgender students.
“Each school district shall develop policies and procedures to ensure that its schools provide a safe and supportive learning environment that is free from discrimination and harassment for transgender students, including students going through a gender transition,” says the New Jersey Departments of Education’s (NJDE) transgender guidance for school districts.
“Gender-based policies, rules and practices can have the effect of marginalizing, stigmatizing, and excluding students, whether they are gender nonconforming or not.”
Issues with the transgender policy came up at past board of education meetings as far back as last August. Though the board did not respond to the topic at the recent session, it has in the past.
“This is a public school district.” Superintendent Kevin Kanauss said at the Aug. 29 board meeting. “I can tell you right now that the safety of every student is paramount to me, and the students that are having those conversations with their administrative team or the student counselors or their teachers, the provisions and policies that we have in place protect the masses, not the individual.
“So the individual who may identify as a different gender doesn’t get access to the other locker room, doesn’t get access to the other bathroom,” he added. “Those students are given specific locations that they agree upon with the staff, with the principals, with the school counselors.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 p.m.