As students prepare to return to school, new protections will be in place for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Earlier this year, the Baltimore City Public Schools board of commissioners unanimously passed policy changes that would allow those students to use the names, pronouns, and facilities that align with their gender identity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2% of high school students identify as transgender.

With this action, Baltimore joined Frederick County in passing the most extensive policies in Maryland protecting transgender and gender non-conforming students. While other districts say they follow the state board of education’s recommendations, only those two jurisdictions have a specific, progressive policy in place.

Students may now use the name and pronoun that reflects their gender identity, even if they have not changed their legal name. The policy expands prohibition of sex-based discrimination to include discrimination “based on gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and nonconformance to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.”

Students will be able to access restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, and a “safe non-stigmatizing alternative” will be provided for those students who are uncomfortable using a gender-segregated facility. Under no circumstances can a student be required or directed to use a private restroom.

The policies now include definitions of terms including agender, cisgender, gender expression, gender fluid, gender identity, non-binary, sexual orientation, transgender and transition.

While schools are required to maintain and enforce dress codes pursuant to district policy, students may dress in accordance with their individual gender identity and gender expression. Dress codes for designated school events such as dances, graduations and other ceremonies shall be gender-neutral. Staff aren’t allowed to enforce the dress code more strictly against transgender or gender non-conforming students.

Students will be permitted to participate in interscholastic athletics and physical education classed in a manner consistent with their gender identity, however those who participate interscholastic athletics must still meet the Maryland state eligibility standards. Disclosing information on a student’s transgender status, medical history or sex assigned at birth to teammates, or staff or students of other schools will be prohibited without the student’s consent.

The policy also sets out detailed grievance processes for students to file complaints against other students, staff or third party that ensure fair and where requested, confidential investigations.

“Of all of the great things I’ve been able to be a part of, this is possibly the thing I’m most proud of,” said Jabari Lyles, executive director of GLSEN Maryland, and the Baltimore mayor’s LGBTQ liaison. “In a city where much seems to go wrong, we were able to get something right. Baltimore has joined Frederick County in taking the lead on ensuring school is a safe, supportive place for all students, which includes LGBTQ students. Hopefully this policy will contribute to momentum across the state to enact similar regulations.”

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