D65 board reviews new support policies for LGBTQ+ staff, students

The+Evanston%2FSkokie+District+65+Education+Center%2C+at+1500+McDaniel+Avenue.

Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Avenue.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board reviewed the district’s progress on its support policies for transgender and gender non-conforming students and staff in a Monday Zoom meeting.

The updated policies, which affect both students and employees across the district’s 18 schools, will clarify issues such as gender-related confidentiality rights, the process for name changes in D65 and dress code guidelines for people who are transitioning.

In September, the district faced backlash for its treatment of a transgender employee, and nearly three dozen community members attended a board meeting to demand policy changes and increased protections for LGBTQ+ staff members. As a result, the district created a committee in November to evaluate its existing support system for transgender and gender non-comforming employees.

Romy DeCristofaro, the district’s executive director for special services, said each school has gender support coordinators for students who are transitioning or gender non-conforming. DeCristofaro said the district trains coordinators and clearly identifies them to assist students and families.

“The updated gender support plan emphasizes following the student lead, and it addresses parent/guardian involvement, students’ safety, student records, facility use and extracurriculars, additional considerations and then also a process for monitoring the plan over time,” DeCristofaro said. “The gender support plans are not required, but they’re available for students who want them.”

The district is also implementing professional staff development focused on supporting transgender and gender non-conforming staff and students.

However, school closures have complicated the district’s plans for employee training. Beatrice Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district is working to schedule new dates for the sessions.

“We initially had a training scheduled for the end of March, but due to current circumstances that had to be canceled and rescheduled,” Davis said. “We are working on having that done so that once the training is done, we can roll out these procedures to the staff and then recognize that we will need to commit to additional training.”

Joaquin Stephenson, director of equity and family/community engagement, said the district will continue to educate employees over the course of the year and into 2021 on gender-related topics. He said the district will also offer two training sessions for families in May, though the district has not yet confirmed dates for those sessions.

Additionally, Stephenson said as D65 continues to explore inclusive policies, administrators should consider shifting to exclusively all-gender restrooms within D65 schools.

“This is not done yet — there’s still more work to do in holding our district and staff accountable for causing harm,” Stephenson said. “We want to make sure that we’re creating an environment for our staff and our students that is truly inclusive.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1

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