An overflowing crowd filled the meeting room inside the Millennium Building at the Oct. 23 School Committee meeting. [metaslider id=15591]

Transgender Student Policy Approved by Westford School Committee

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An overflowing crowd filled the meeting room inside the Millennium Building at the Oct. 23 School Committee meeting. <!-- meta slider -->
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                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15604 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4656-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15604" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">The meeting room inside the Millennium Building was jammed with supporters and opponents of the School Committee's Student Gender Policy on Oct. 23. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15605 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4658-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15605" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Westford Academy Student Counsel members Steven McMaster (left) and Gareth Owens attended the meeting. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15606 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4661-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15606" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery, Superintendent Everett V. Olsen, and School Committee Chairman Terry Ryan listen intently. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15607 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4674-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15607" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Kathy Lynch seeks clarification on the Student Gender Policy. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15608 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4684-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15608" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">A father of an elementary school child expresses his concerns. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15609 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4694-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15609" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Medha Palnati advocates for the Transgender Student Policy. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15610 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4698-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15610" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Suzanne Eaton is visibly upset after recalling her relationship with a transgender partner. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15611 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4700-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15611" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Matthew McQuinn. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15612 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4705-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15612" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Uri Blumenthal objected to the policy. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15613 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4713-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15613" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">School Committee member Megan Eckroth (left) fields criticism as Alicia Mallon listens. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15614 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4715-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15614" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">Craig Kevghas registers his disapproval of School Committee member Megan Eckroth's statement. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
                <li style="display: none; width: 100%;" class="slide-15615 ms-image"><img src="http://www.westfordcatnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_4719-900x600.jpg" height="600" width="900" alt="" class="slider-15591 slide-15615" /><div class="caption-wrap"><div class="caption">School Committee members Gloria Miller and Chris Sanders (right). PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE</div></div></li>
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An overflowing crowd filled the meeting room inside the Millennium Building at the Oct. 23 School Committee meeting.

In the end, the 30 or so residents who objected to the Transgender Student Policy on Oct. 23 made no impact on the School Committee’s decision.

The policy was unanimously approved, protecting the rights of transgender and non-conforming gender students inside the town’s public school buildings.

School Committee Chairman Terry Ryan praised the subcommittee of Gloria Miller, Chris Sanders, Alicia Curtin Mallon, and Avery Adam for their diligence in creating and presenting the four-page policy.

“They put a lot in this and did a lot of research,” he said.

Nonetheless, a group of  opponents of the policy attended the meeting to voice their concerns. The School Committee had preliminarily approved the policy on Sept. 25. The interim period gave residents the opportunity to digest the policy draft and weigh in on the matter. Ryan said he received two correspondences – one in favor of the policy and one opposed. The exchange of ideas prior to and at the meeting satisfied the chairman.

“It was a good conversation back and forth, both sides,” Ryan said.

Craig Kevghas (black shirt) reacts to a comment by School Committee member Megan Eckroth. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Craig Kevghas (black jacket, third from right) reacts to a comment by School Committee member Megan Eckroth. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

 

But Craig Kevghas voiced dissatisfaction.

“I don’t like people telling me I don’t understand an issue because I disagree with them,” he said after the meeting.

Kevghas’s comment was in response to School Committee member Megan Eckroth. During the meeting, Eckroth had challenged the opponents for expressing concerns about transgender females using the girls’ bathroom.

“All of those comments, while certainly valid and you are entitled to your opinion, show a lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender. And after all of this discussion, I think we can agree to disagree that you perhaps don’t understand what that means,” Eckroth said, prompting numerous residents to object loudly.

School Committee members Megan Eckroth (left) and Alicia Mallon. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

School Committee members Megan Eckroth (left) and Alicia Mallon. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

“You can’t sit here and tell us we’re stupid,” Kevghas said.

Kevghas, whose two children graduated from Westford Academy in 2007 and 2011, expressed concern that students as young as 14 would be allowed to make choices about their sexual identity.

“I think they’re setting themselves up for a major lawsuit regarding a child who’s 14 and psychologically confused. At 14 you shouldn’t be making those decisions,” he said.

Among the issues the policy covers is how a student can change the name and gender marker that appears on school records. “For students under 14 years old, only the parent/guardian may request the change,” according to the policy. “For students who are 14-17 years old, or who have entered ninth grade, the parent and the student may either alone or together make decisions about the student record.”

Kathy Lynch. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Kathy Lynch. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Female bathrooms are now open to students who identify as female and vice-versa. But there are also private bathrooms available to all students, said Superintendent Everett V. Olsen.

The policy covers how the elementary, middle or high school educators will assist a student who is transitioning. “This plan may include items such as: the student’s chosen name and pronoun; a plan to initiate the use of the student’s chosen name and pronoun with the school; communication between the school and the parent/guardian…,” according to policy.

Privacy, names and pronouns, facilities, physical education classes and other athletics, other gender-based activities, rules, policies, and practices, and dress code are also covered.

Suzanne Eaton. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Suzanne Eaton. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Despite the opposition, Ryan, who said he will not seek re-election when his term ends in May, is not concerned about a backlash toward the School Committee. Member Arthur Benoit was absent from the meeting.

“I think the people of Westford, they understand this,” Ryan said. “We’re doing what’s in the best interest of the students. That’s all we ever do.”