Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sent a message to all principals Monday: When school opens in August, transgender students will be called by the name and pronoun they choose. That chosen gender identity will be honored in restrooms, locker rooms, yearbooks and graduation ceremonies, according to a new regulation released Monday.
Superintendent Ann Clark said CMS has been working on the regulation for a year, but the political furor over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 left principals and teachers confused and wary.
“You’ve kind of had to feel your way through this,” Myers Park High School Principal Mark Bosco said at a news conference after the training.
This is really about our children and their safe and joyful passage.
CMS Superintendent Ann Clark
Clark said the goal of the CMS regulation is to allow all students to be safe and comfortable as they pursue an education. Although official transcripts must carry the name and gender on the student’s birth certificate, schools will be expected to create class rosters that use the student’s preferred identity. All students will have access to increased privacy, such as a screened area in the locker room or a single-stall restroom, on request.
And gender-based activities that have no educational purpose, such as having a girls’ and boys’ line to go to recess, will be phased out.
Until you really take some time to understand what it is to be transgender, you’re just going to miss some things.
Myers Park High Principal Mark Bosco
“This is about courage, understanding and compassion,” Clark said. “These are our children. These are the community’s children.”
Clark and CMS attorney George Battle III said the regulation follows the guidance of a federal appeals court ruling and was not designed as an act of defiance against HB2, which, among other things, requires students to use public school restrooms and locker rooms based on the gender on their birth certificates.
In April, a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., stated that transgender students must be allowed to use restrooms based on the gender they identify with, not the one on their birth certificate.
“That’s the law of the land for five states that are in the 4th Circuit, North Carolina being one of those states,” Battle said.
Regulations do not require a board vote, but board Chair Mary McCray said members stand unanimously behind the new plan. She plans to send a letter to elected officials representing Mecklenburg County to fill them in.
Clark said a student’s transgender status is confidential and the district has no way of tallying how many students fit that description. Experts estimate that only 0.3 percent of the population is transgender, but in a district with about 146,000 students that would come to more than 400 children and teens.
CMS has been dealing with transgender students on a case-by-case basis, starting in elementary schools and running through high school graduations, where there have been cases of the graduate wanting one name and gender used on the diploma and the parents wanting another. If students are 18, as most graduates are, the student’s choice will be honored next year, Clark said.
“This is about listening to our students, first and foremost,” she said.
Bosco said he has always tried to be sensitive to transgender students, but Monday’s training helped him understand how complex gender identity issues can be. “Until you really take some time to understand what it is to be transgender, you’re just going to miss some things,” he said.