School Board Votes to Approve Trans Rights Policies


Adrita Talukder

The Ally Pride Flag, Transgender Pride Flag, and the Philadelphia Pride Flag hanging in the SCAHS building. The SCASD Board of Directors approved a set of trans policies at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 13.

Adrita Talukder, Newspaper Editor in Chief

The State College Area School District Board of Directors approved a set of two policies on Monday, Sept. 13, affirming the rights of transgender students, staff, and faculty within the district. Policy 100.2 was approved in a 9-0 vote, with board member Laurel Zydney abstaining. Policy 250 was approved in a unanimous 10-0 vote. 

The policies, which were first discussed by the board at its Aug. 16 meeting, have been in the works for several years. Sue Marshall, a current member of the LGBTQ+ and Gender Equity Workgroup, began developing policies concerning the rights of transgender members of the district eight years ago. The development of the trans policies had stalled until recent years when administration became increasingly aware of the needs of trans students in the district.

After hearing that SCASD administration was on board, the workgroup began advocating for the policies’ approval. The policies were written by the board policy committee, which conferred with Dr. Seria Chatters, members of the Equity Committee’s LGBTQ working group, Director of Student Services Jeanne Knouse, and HR. The working group collaborated with the committee in the creation of the policies, offering feedback and recommendations.

Elana Szczesny, co-chair of the working group, detailed how they got involved in the making of the policies. 

“It was really in the spring that we started more proactively pursuing—like expressing our interest in having this policy implemented,” Szczesny said. “We had a meeting with the policy committee, where we talked with them about why we felt like it was important to have this policy at this point in time, and to better understand if there were barriers to putting this kind of policy into place.”

Policy 100.2, the first of the approved policies, details nondiscrimination guidelines, with an emphasis on “ensuring that Gender Expansive & Transgender students and staff are provided with equal opportunity and access to facilities, programs, services, and activities.” The contents of policy 250 are similar to 100.2 but are specifically for students, where 100.2 is a more overarching policy.

Along with policy 250 are the proposed administration regulations. The policies lay the groundwork for getting regulations running within the district. In policy 100.2, the purpose of the regulations is stated, saying, “the regulation’s purpose is to provide specific guidance for District staff regarding issues relating to Gender Expansive & Transgender individuals in order to create and maintain a safe and supportive environment for all.” 

A draft of the proposed regulations as of Sept. 2 is available to the public.

Following the approval of the policies, a State High student who collaborated with the working group spoke on what they hope to see going forward. 

I know at the board meeting that one of the board members stated that they hope to roll out the administrative regulations with staff and student input, so I really hope they keep their word on that because it’s crucial to have our demands met,” the student said. “I guess to be completely frank, I’m only concerned with the board/administrators insofar as how receptive they are to demands and how they implement them.”

The motion to approve the policies did face pushback when being discussed by the board at the Sept. 13 meeting. Individuals from both the board and the public questioned the necessity of policy 100.2. 

“I agree with the general sense of the policy,” said Zydney, a board member, “and promoting that throughout our district. We already have two policies that address that, the Inclusive Excellence policy and 103, and it specifically mentions gender identity as one of the things which we do not discriminate against. […] We already have policies that pertain to all our students.”

Scott Fozard, a board member, spoke on Zydney’s comment. 

“While I don’t think it (policy 100.2) is necessary, I don’t think it’s at all harmful or that it goes against something that we currently have,” Fozard said. “I agree with you Laurel, that it’s clearly stated in other policies that we don’t discriminate against any group, but I also don’t think it’s problematic to say that this is one that we want to spell out separately.”

When the meeting was opened to public comment, Tamar London, who served on the LGBTQ and Gender Equity group and is a member of the Centre LGBTQA Support Network, emphasized the necessity of the policies.

“Equity is very different from equality,” London said. “In this particular case, it’s not just about treating [trans students] like every other student; there are accommodations they require. For example, access to the bathroom that makes them feel safe. […] It’s great if we have the administration on board, as it appears we do, but we need to protect these students for all contingencies, for the possibility that an administrator would interpret what nondiscrimination looks like in a very different way. Somebody might say it just means they have access to the same bathroom that every other student has. That does not protect these students—they do not need equality, they need equity.”