On February 8, 2021, the Board of School Committee for the Manchester School District adopted a new policy titled “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students.” The policy mandates that educators and school staff should “not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.” The policy then reiterates the point by asking school staff to only use the student’s legal name and pronoun when speaking with parents:
When contacting the parent or guardian of a transgender or gender nonconforming student, school personnel should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent, or guardian has specified otherwise.
The policy states that teachers and school staff must use the preferred pronouns of students and then appears to threaten school staff into following this rule. Refusing to use a student’s preferred pronoun “is a violation of this policy.”
A student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity. A court-ordered name or gender change is not required, and the student need not change his or her official records. The intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of this policy.
The policy explains that students will have access to the locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity: “In most cases, transgender students should have access to the locker room that corresponds to their gender identity consistently asserted at school.” The policy also explains that students can partake in the sports that correspond to their gender identity: “Transgender and gender nonconforming students shall be permitted to participate in physical education classes and intramural sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”
On January 25, 2021, the Board of School Committee updated the school district’s equity policy. The updated policy states that “to break the predictive link between student demographics and student achievement, the district will apply an equity lens to all policies, programs, operations, and practices to reduce opportunity gaps and ensure all students have access to a high-quality education.” The policy then lists what the school district will do to ensure equity, including developing “critical racial, ethnic, and cultural competence”:
- Provide every student equitable access to effective teachers and principals; high-quality culturally and personally relevant instruction, curricula, sufficient support services, facilities, and other educational resources, including multi-tiered systems of support, and differentiated instruction.
- Identify and mitigate culturally biased instructional materials, assessments, and pedagogies that result in achievement disparities.
- Disaggregate any data used in decision-making by race, ethnicity, language, gender identity, special education status, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and mobility (when available). Track related data and report it annually both to the BOSC and on the district website.
- Create and nurture an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, families, and staff. Collect data on climate using student, staff, and family surveys and report this data annually to the Board and post to the district website.
- Ensure that all families whose first language is not English have equitable access to translated documents.
- Incorporate the voice and perspectives of all students and families, including families of color and those families whose first language may not be English, into decisions that impact student success. Work to empower them as partners in education, planning, and decision making and create opportunities for their leadership development.
- Track and analyze data regarding students who lose instructional time due to disciplinary referrals. Present findings annually to the Board. Work to eliminate any loss of instructional time due to disciplinary referrals.
- Actively encourage advanced academic opportunities for all students. Examine enrollment processes and track data to ensure equitable access for all students. Analyze and report this data annually to the Board.
- Recruit, hire, and retain high-quality personnel that reflects student demographics at all organizational levels. Track demographic data and evidence of the district’s recruiting, hiring, and retention efforts, reporting to the Board annually.
- Give all employees and students opportunities to develop the critical racial, ethnic, and cultural competence to understand the contexts in which they teach, work, and learn.
- Develop employees’ personal, professional, and organizational skills and knowledge to empower them to recognize and address racial and ethnic disparities.
- Encourage and support personnel at all organizational levels to engage in high-quality training in culturally-responsive practices. This should be evident in the district professional development plan.
In the “Program of Studies” for the 2021-2022 school year, the school district features a class called “Art for Civic Engagement” that appears to promote certain political movements as making a perceived positive change:
Art has often been used as a catalyst for social change and community representation. Throughout history, communities such as LGBTQ+, women, multicultural, people of color, environmentalists and more have used art in attempts to promote awareness and recognition in their communities. Throughout this course students will learn about global artists that have used their work in this manner within their communities. They will participate in projects that are expressive for themselves, others, or for the communities they associate or connect with.