A committee formed to look at an advisory handed down by the U.S. Department of Justice is on its way in Carroll County, with most of the subcommittees having met.
Superintendent Stephen Guthrie announced at a Board of Education meeting in June plans to create a committee to look at Carroll County Public Schools' practices and policies after a May 13 letter from the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department. The letter, referenced now as the "Dear Colleague" letter, makes recommendations for public schools to allow students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity or risk losing federal funding.
Since the June board meeting and announcement of plans to look at this recommendation, the committee has formed and been broken into six subcommittees, said Assistant Superintendent Steven Johnson, who was chosen to head the project.
The subcommittees must deal with different aspects of how the recommendation would affect schools. The subcommittees, by topic, include: restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms; overnight field trips, performing arts uniforms, and career and technology education uniforms; student dress codes, graduation traditions, proms and school dances; student records, names, pronouns; athletics and team locker rooms, and athletic handbooks; and general policies.
Each subcommittee has at least three scheduled meetings, Johnson said, and they have an Aug. 22 deadline for coming back with a report. This information is expected to be presented at the September school board meeting.
A total of 71 people are involved, Johnson said. There are 34 CCPS administrators, 13 teachers, six students and 18 parents or community members.
Pam Zappardino, of Uniontown, is one of those 71. Specifically, she's on the general policies subcommittee. It's something that's important to her, she said, and not a new issue for her.
Zappardino, a McDaniel College professor who teaches a course on culture and diversity, said she's been working with women's issues and social justice issues since the early 1980s. She said she's happy to have been chosen to be on the committee so that she can help make sure everyone is treated fairly and there's no discrimination.
"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about what it means to be transgender," Zappardino said.
Anne Stoner, vice president of the Carroll County chapter of PFLAG, an advocacy group focusing on LGBTQ issues, is another committee member. Stoner is on the student dress codes, graduation traditions, proms and school dances subcommittee.
"There is open discussion," she said. "I feel like everybody has their eyes wide open."
But not all members of the these subcommittees have confidence in where things are headed.
Ken Mercer, of Westminster, is the a parent of a child in the district. With Guthrie's original email after the "Dear Colleague" letter's release, Mercer said, he thought this committee-driven process was looking at whether to allow students who say they identify as transgender or gender-fluid to use bathrooms and locker rooms they identify with.
Instead, Mercer said, he feels like they're moving forward with it and just looking at how to go about the process. He's on the restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms subcommittee, which he specifically asked to be on, he said.
"I'm concerned with the direction that CCPS is going," he said. "I wish the school system would follow the law, as opposed to a letter."
There are many different voices involved in these discussions, Johnson said. There are those who are worried about what these regulations could mean for safety and others who identify as members or allies of the LGBTQ community.
"I do think there's a reflection of multiple points of view," he added.
Meetings are not closed, Johnson said, though for anyone who does attend, there is no time allotted for citizen participation. Input from those not on the subcommittees will be welcomed once a report is given to the Board of Education.
The dress code subcommittee will next meet 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, July 18, in the Human Resources Conference Room at the CCPS building, at 125 N. Court St. in Westminster. The restrooms and locker rooms subcommittee will next meet 8 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, at Winters Mill High School. The general policies subcommittee will next meet 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Aug. 3 in the Board Conference Room at the CCPS building.
The subcommittee roster is not finalized until the committee has met for the first time, according to Assistant Superintendent Steven Johnson, who was chosen to head the project. The general policies subcommittee will not meet for the first time until Aug. 3.
Restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms
Tom Hill, Ray Prokop, Danielle McAulay, Ken Mercer, Jim Rodriguez, Ken Goncz, Cheryl Moyer, Jamie Carver, Erin Brillhart, Allison Smith, Pat Levroney, Teresa Loya, Brianne Carter
Overnight field trips, performing arts uniforms and CTE uniforms