Student Organizers Win Transgender Equality Battle In Maryland

by Tod Perry

October 10, 2017

Last month, the students of the schools in Frederick County, Maryland, returned to a more inclusive educational environment thanks to the hard work of 17-year-old James van Kuilenburg. After the Trump administration revoked federal guidance that said transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, a group led by van Kuilenburg went to the school board to make schools safe for transgender students. 

Beginning in February, van Kuilenburg, along with fellow students, parents, and educators, launched a Facebook page, held rallies, and went to the local school board to make their schools more inclusive for transgender students. “There’s no procedure, and there’s no policy,” 15-year-old transgender student Maxx Frazier, told the school board, “and it’s worrying because right now with the election and the results of that, a lot of people feel they have the right to hate.”

The group’s efforts led the school board to vote 5 to 1 to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that fit with their identity. They can also participate in sports that align with their gender identity as well. Children who are uncomfortable with the new policy are provided with non-stigmatizing alternatives such as privacy curtains or changes to their locker room schedules.  

“I see it as one of the most comprehensive transgender student policies in the country,” Jabari Lyles, executive director of GLSEN Maryland, a group that advocates for LGBTQ students, told The Washington Post

The policy took effect over summer vacation is already facing a legal challenge. A lawsuit was filed in August on behalf of the mother of a 15-year-old student who feels the policy makes her unsafe and that she’s humiliated to undress in front of the “opposite sex.” The suit was filed by Dan Cox, a Republican candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018.

To show support for their transgender classmates, students have started a social media campaign #IAmFrederick.

Share image via ​Charlie Nguyen/Flickr.

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