The Rivers School, an elite private school in Weston, Massachusetts serving grades 6 through 12, recently adopted a gender identity policy allowing biological boys access to girls restrooms, locker rooms and athletic teams. The policy also compels speech in accordance with one’s professed gender identity and extends to parental electronic communication, raising freedom of thought and parental rights concerns.
The Rivers School
The Rivers School was founded in 1915 with a unique mission of open-air education for healthy boys in New England. Co-ed since 1989, tuition for the 2022-23 school year is $57,950.
The Rivers School is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, a school membership association that has been widely criticized for pushing ideological content and policies on its members.
The Gender Identity policy
Entitled “The Rivers School Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Individuals,” the policy calls for students to “celebrate differences” and claims it will “further the successful educational development and wellbeing of every member of the community.” The policy applies to parent electronic communication with students, employees, and other parents.”
“This policy covers, but is not limited to, conduct that takes place on school property and at all
school-sponsored functions and activities. This policy also pertains to usage of electronic
communication that occurs between members of the School community. This policy applies to
all members of the school community, including, but not limited to, students, employees,
parents, volunteers, and guests.”
The Rivers School claims its policy is “in compliance with state and federal law.” The policy looks similar to that of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which governs public schools. That policy aligns with Massachusetts Senate Bill 2407, signed into law July 8, 2016, which applies to public accommodations.
The Rivers School is a private institution.
The school says it has plans to invite “experts on gender identity” to campus as part of ongoing professional development.
The policy allows students to choose new names and pronouns and, according to the policy, “the school will not tolerate intentional and persistent refusal to respect an individual’s gender identity by using the wrong name and/or pronoun.” The school will use a student’s preferred name and gender on documents such as “letters of recommendation, diploma, student schedules, disciplinary records, etc.”
Bathrooms and locker rooms
The policy allows students to access restrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity. Other students who are uncomfortable with the policy can request accommodations for themselves such as “a privacy partition or curtain, provision to use a nearby private restroom or office, or a separate changing schedule.”
Student athletics and sports teams
The policy allows students to participate on sex-segregated teams based on their gender identity “to the extent that their participation complies with the athletic competition rules and bylaws of the New England Prep School Athletic Council and the Independent School League.”
The Rivers School student athletes compete in the Independent School League, a league of 16 day and boarding schools in the Boston area which are members of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council, the governing body for preparatory schools and leagues in New England.
According to the Council’s gender identity and expression statement, member schools are free to set their own athletic policies for gender nonconforming athletes. But the statement strongly recommends school athletic policies which “affirm the identity and expressions of those in our communities.” There are 169 full member schools and 24 associate member schools in the NEPSAC.
The athletic policy does not mention safety or fairness.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion
The Rivers School gender identity policy is part of the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. “People of all genders belong in our community,” according to the school’s five-woman DEI department.
The department manages DEI-focused student groups such as the school’s gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) club. The school observes transgender remembrance day.
Gender—Beyond the Binary
Each year The Rivers School engages around a DEI theme. The theme for the 2021-2022 school year was “Gender—Beyond the Binary.”
Programming for the “Beyond the Binary” year included a student assembly on March 2, 2022 featuring a talk by transgender NCAA Division I swimmer Schuyler Bailar. Bailar is a biological female who competed as a male on Harvard University’s men’s swim team from 2015 until 2019.
Schuyler is a graduate of Georgetown Day School, an elite independent K-12 school in Washington, D.C.