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Baltimore City schools board passes policy protecting transgender students

Baltimore City Public Schools board of commissioners passes a policy that will protect transgender students on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.
Baltimore City Public Schools board of commissioners passes a policy that will protect transgender students on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Colin Campbell / The Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore City Public Schools board of commissioners on Tuesday unanimously passed a policy allowing transgender students to use the names, pronouns and bathrooms that align with their gender identity — prompting the boardroom, packed with LGBTQ+ advocates, to burst into applause.

Baltimore joined Frederick County in creating a progressive policy that goes beyond state guidelines, which recommend modifying school forms to allow students to self-identify their preferred names and pronouns, and having teachers ask students privately how they would prefer to be addressed in class.

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Under the new policy, transgender or gender non-conforming students may use the name and pronoun that reflects their identity, regardless of whether the child has changed their legal name.

The policy extends the prohibition on sex-based discrimination “to discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and nonconformance to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”

It allows all student access to facilities that correspond with their gender identity, including restrooms and locker rooms and provides a “safe non-stigmatizing alternative” for those who are uncomfortable using a gender-segregated facility.

While many districts say they follow Maryland's guidance around these issues, advocates say Baltimore would join only Frederick County in having a specific, progressive policy to address students who identify as transgender. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun video)

An estimated 2% of high school students identify as transgender, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alaine Jolicouer, co-chair of the Baltimore City Commission’s education advocacy committee, one of several who testified in favor of the policy, stood up after the vote and called it “a symbolic and crucial moment.”

“I saw the need for this change, and I’m very happy to witness it today, not just myself but with members of my community,” Jolicouer said.

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