Subscribe to or free, daily publication for all your Westford news.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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”