Oxford, ME

Proposed Gender Identity Policy At Maine School Called A Distraction From Education By Parents

The Maine Writer

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The MSAD 17 school district serves 3400 students in eight towns in Maine. One of the schools in the district, Oxford School District, introduced a proposed gender identity policy in October 2022. The proposed gender identity policy was read at the October school board meeting, and a public forum was scheduled to discuss the policy in November 2022. The school board said the policy was intended to provide support for students of all gender and sexual identities by fostering a safe and comfortable environment free of harassment.

The school board said the policy was needed to make sure that the school was in compliance with federal and state laws, including Title IX. According to data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 21.2% of the 29,964 grades 5-12 students in the survey identify as gay, bisexual, or something other than straight. This survey is a biennial survey of Maine students in grades 5-12 conducted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Department of Education since 2009.

The public forum in November to discuss the policy ended up going for three hours, with many of those commenting being against the proposed policy and many saying this would take away parents' rights. The proposed gender identity policy says, "In the case of a student who has not yet informed their parent(s)/guardian(s), the administrator shall first discuss parent/guardian involvement with the student to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk by contacting their parent(s)/guardian(s). The student shall be notified by the administrator prior to contacting their parent(s)/guardian(s). Parent notification shall be contingent on student approval, with the exception of school records accessed and disclosed under FERPA." This section of the policy was the parental rights issue for many of those speaking at the public forum. Some of the other questions asked and the school district's responses were:

1. (Public forum) How are students feeling about this proposed policy?

Oxford Hills School District (OHSD) We cannot respond on behalf of students.

2. (Public forum) Is there a legal precedent or standing about secret transition plans?

(OHSD) This policy does not, and is not intended to, address transition plans.

3. (Public forum) Is there a legal basis for not requiring medical diagnosis?

(OHSD) Yes. See the Maine Human Rights Act, Commission guidance and regulations, and the Doe decision.

4. (Public forum) There are religious considerations as well - which protected class receives priority?

(OHSD) The law does not prioritize protected classes. The District is under a legal obligation to honor the gender identity of our students and our staff.

5. (Public forum) Parents' right to know is protected and praised in the 14th amendment. Will the district go against the constitution?

(OHSD) There is no legal decision saying that the Maine Human Rights Act violates the 14th amendment. We recognize the importance of parental involvement and that’s why it is encouraged and reflected in the draft policy as discussed above.

At the December 5, 2022, school board meeting, the board decided to postpone taking any further action on the proposed policy to give them more time to engage and discuss the policy with the community before they hold a vote on whether they should adopt it.

As a result of the proposed gender identity policy, a board of education recall petition for two of the board members has been brought forward and will be decided by the town of Paris voters in January or February.

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Mainer that enjoys writing about current news events along with news from my state of Maine and news about First Amendment issues. I always provide no spin, facts only reporting-- guaranteed.

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