By Jon Sills, Superintendent of the Bedford School Department
During February break, President Trump reversed President Obama’s guidance to schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that they feel are appropriate to their gender, and instead argued that the question of which bathrooms transgender students may use should be left to the states.
Massachusetts passed its own law in 2016 giving “transgender people the right to use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identities.” [http://bit.ly/2mGwdMI] Unless the Supreme Court were to rule otherwise, the Massachusetts law will remain in effect whether or not the federal government supports this position. The Bedford School Department’s actions are governed by the Massachusetts statute, which closely aligns with our District’s values.
Those values clearly uphold the right of all of our students to be themselves, to be free from discrimination and disparate treatment, and to feel safe to embrace their identities. We also safeguard the right of all of our students to voice their opinions, respectfully, even if those opinions are not embraced by a majority of their peers. Ensuring the intellectual and emotional safety of all of our students is a personal priority, and I pledge to work closely with all members of our school community to protect, particularly, the most vulnerable among us. In the context of national news regarding the travel ban and deportations, this may mean our Muslim students or immigrant families’ children. In the context of a particular class discussion, it may mean a student with conservative political views.
At the end of the day, learning is undermined when students feel unsupported or under attack, or when they are afraid to voice their beliefs. As educators, we cannot sit idly by and allow that to happen.