Board to vote on transgender policy next week


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. The school board will vote next week on a transgender policy that would allow students to use the locker room of their choice.

Ryan Wangman, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston Township High School/District 202 board will vote next week on a policy that would allow transgender students to use the locker room of their choice.

The policy, which will be voted on after being discussed in two separate board readings, was crafted after the Board Policy Committee decided it needed language to better support its gender discrimination policy. Board president Pat Savage-Williams said she is confident in the staff’s ability to keep their commitment to equity on the “front burner.”

“We have made it clear in presenting this policy that we care about the students and we want students to feel safe and to be included,” Savage-Williams said. “That’s certainly our intent.”

The district currently has a policy to prevent gender discrimination and a set of procedures used to carry out that policy. Transgender students at ETHS may use the bathroom of their choice, but must request access to a separate locker room.

The implementation of the new policy will include superintendent Eric Witherspoon appointing a nondiscrimination coordinator as well as establishing an advisory committee of stakeholders, according to board documents. The committee will help make recommendations on “appropriate procedures” to properly put the policy into operation.

Gretchen Livingston, a recently reelected board member, praised the district’s efforts to create an advisory committee. She said it was important in the wake of high turnout at the Board Policy Committee meeting to ensure all voices were represented in the process, especially those of students.

“We sometimes forget that human rights can encompass so many different identities in our students and in people generally,” Livingston said.

The board also received an annual update on its “1:1 Digital Learning Initiative” from director of instructional technology David Chan. Chan said the school reallocated and distributed 750 Chromebooks to the ETHS senior class and that every student who enters the school would have access to a computer.

Chan said his team was able to get more done this year partly due to bigger staff size.

“(More staff) allowed us to focus on projects, ideas (and) initiatives that we’ve always thought about and dreamed about, but didn’t have the time or the capacity to focus on,” he said.

Among those projects included a collaboration with the Evanston Public Library to provide mobile hotspots to students without internet access at home, Chan said. There are currently 15 hotspots available to students who can check them out for a rental period of 28 days, he said.

Chan said ETHS is also taking part in Google Expeditions, a virtual reality program that allows students to go on “field trips” to various locations around the world. He said the technology is great for introducing or supplementing a unit on the curriculum.

“You wouldn’t be able to go to the shark reef before,” Chan said. “You can look at a picture in your book, but now you can actually see it in 360.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for May 1.

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