Gender Support Guidelines for DPS Staff & Community
Durham Public Schools Board Policy outlines the Board’s desire to create a safe and supportive school environment for all students and staff. Board policy also defines clear guidelines for prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Board Policy 1710/4021/7230 states:
The board acknowledges the dignity and worth of all students and employees and strives to create a safe, orderly, caring, and inviting school environment to facilitate student learning and achievement. The board prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age.
Further, board policy defines discrimination as:
any act or failure to act, whether intentional or unintentional, that unreasonably and unfavorably differentiates treatment of others based solely on their membership in a socially distinct group or category, such as race, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Finally, the board specifically addresses gender-based harassment and hostility:
Gender-based harassment is also a type of harassment that violates this policy. Gender-based harassment may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, sexual orientation, or gender identity but not involving conduct of a sexual nature.
The cumulative weight of this language provides clear protections for our LGBTQ students and staff including our transgender and gender non-binary students and staff. Educators and the entire school community play an essential role in creating a supportive school culture and advocating for the wellbeing of students.
The purpose of this guidance is to assist school staff and the DPS community in our shared work to acknowledge “the dignity and worth of all students and employees” and to assist in creating “a safe, orderly, caring, and inviting school environment to facilitate student learning and achievement” as it relates to our transgender and gender non-binary students. The guidance will outline definitions of key terms related to gender-based harassment, recommended protections for transgender and non-binary students during both face to face and online learning, and outline appropriate ongoing professional learning necessary for Durham Public Schools staff. School principals are responsible for ensuring that all school-based staff are aware of these guidelines and adhering to their recommendations as part of their job responsibilities and in line with board policy. While this guidance has drawn from professional recommendations, it will not anticipate every possible situation that could arise. School and district administration should collaborate to create solutions for each student that fall in line with our stated aim to value the dignity and worth of all students.
GENDER EXPRESSION: The multiple ways (e.g., behaviors, dress) in which a person may choose to communicate gender to oneself and/or to others.
GENDER IDENTITY: A personal conception of oneself as male, female, both, neither and/or another gender. Gender identity can be the same as or different from the gender a person is assigned at birth. Gender identity is a matter of self-identification; no one can tell anyone else how to identify or what terms to use. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, and everyone has both a gender identity and a sexual orientation.
GENDER NON-BINARY: An umbrella term for gender identities used by people whose gender is not exclusively male or female.
GENDER NONCONFORMING: A descriptive term and/or identity of a person who has a gender identity and/or expression that does not conform to the traditional expectations of the gender they were assigned at birth. People who identify as “gender nonconforming” may or may not also identify as “transgender.”
PRONOUNS: The pronoun or set of pronouns that a person identifies with and would like to be called when their proper name is not being used. Examples include “she/her/hers,” “he/him/his,” ze/hir/hirs,” and “they/them/theirs.” Some people prefer no pronouns at all.
TRANSGENDER: An umbrella term describing people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth.
TRANSITION: The process in which a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be at birth. Transition is a process that is different for everyone, and it may or may not involve social, legal, or physical changes. There is no one step or set of steps that an individual must undergo in order to have their gender identity affirmed and respected.
In accordance with the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) and Board Policy 4700, only those school or other employees with a legitimate educational interest are permitted to access a student's records. Absent parental consent, or the student's consent if they are 18 years of age or older, information contained in, learned from or to be recorded in a student's records, including information regarding a student's transgender status, may only be disclosed in the following very limited circumstances: 1) in a health or safety emergency; 2) to employees with a legitimate educational interest in the information; or 3) in various other circumstances explicitly permitted by Board Policy 4700. Note that using a student's name and the corresponding pronoun that is preferred and consistently asserted at school as set forth below does not constitute a violation of a student's privacy, board policy, or these guidelines.
BULLYING AND HARASSMENT
Schools should not tolerate bullying or harassment of transgender students. Schools should investigate a claim of transgender bullying or harassment just as they would investigate a claim of any other harassment, pursuant to the provisions of Board Policies 1710/4021/7230 and 1720/4015/7225, as well as the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If it is determined that bullying and/or harassment has occurred, consider what action is needed to address and respond. Such actions may include:
- Providing non-disciplinary interventions for the offender (e.g., sensitivity training, counseling);
- Incorporating the topic of transgender students into any existing bullying prevention or harassment programs or training;
- Offering a student support team for the transgender student who has been targeted by the bullying/harassment:
- The team could include the transgender student, the parent, a counselor or administrator, and other staff with whom the student has developed a relationship (e.g., a teacher or coach);
- The team can develop a plan that identifies strategies for supporting the student;
- If there is already a team and plan in place and harassment/bullying has occurred, reconvene as a group to consider additional ways to support the student;
- Implementing disciplinary interventions for the offender when necessary to eliminate the bullying and harassment.
PRONOUNS, LEGAL NAMES, & STUDENT RECORDS
Preferred Name and Pronouns
Every student is entitled to be addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to the student's gender identity that is consistently asserted at school. Students are not required to obtain parental consent or a court ordered name and/or gender change as a prerequisite to being addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.
In the case that a student wants to go by a name that has not yet been legally changed, schools can abide by the following guidance:
- Explain that the PowerSchool record reflects the student’s legal name, so it cannot be updated without a legal name change.
- Offer to add the student’s preferred name in the preferred name field.
- In speaking with the student or referring to the student by name, staff should use the student’s preferred name and pronouns.
- Any unofficial documents created as part of the school program should reflect the student’s preferred name and pronouns (example: seating charts, student recognitions).
While inadvertent slips and honest mistakes may occur from time-to-time, the intentional and persistent refusal to respect a student's gender identity or choice of preferred name and pronoun is prohibited.
A student’s name in the student’s official record should match the student’s legal name. The following types of documents reflect a legal name change:
- Court order with original name and new name;
- Passport with new name.
If the student has legally changed his or her name, PowerSchool should be updated to reflect the student’s current legal name. There is no need to change the student’s prior records. For example, if a 10th grade student legally changes his name, the school does not need to change that student’s records from prior years. However, all new records created by the school should reflect the student’s current, legal name. Here are some additional points of guidance as it relates to student names and pronouns in PowerSchool:
- Staff should make a note in PowerSchool with dates when the student went by the original name and the date when the student record was updated to reflect the current legal name.
- The school may have a process for relying on identification documents to complete the gender field (e.g., birth certificate, passport, ID card).
- If the transgender student’s biological sex is used in PowerSchool, consider the types of documents in which that information is displayed (e.g., transcripts? classroom rosters?).
- The school should ensure the privacy of records with the student’s biological sex (e.g., placing records in a confidential file, distributing documents in envelopes, removing the “biological sex” field from any class list or roster).
- If the transgender student’s gender identity is used in PowerSchool, consider retaining information in the student’s record with the student’s biological sex and a note of the change.
The school shall accept the gender identity that each student asserts. There is no medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment threshold that students must meet in order to have their gender identity recognized and respected. The assertion may be evidenced by an expressed desire to be consistently recognized as the sex consistent with their gender identity. Students ready to socially transition may initiate a process to change their name, pronoun, attire, and access to gender-related programs, activities, and facilities consistent with their gender identity. Each student has a unique process for transitioning. The school shall ensure the creation of a support team and age-appropriate plan that assists the student in accessing the district’s educational programs and activities.
The student support team should start with the student, parents (as appropriate based on the age and maturity level of the student), administrator, counselor, and the student’s chosen support system. School staff should be mindful to have a conversation with the student and/or parent (again, as age appropriate) asking for consent to share information and including others in the student’s support system. In circumstances where the student expresses that the student’s family is not supportive of the gender identity the student is expressing, school administration can consult DPS Student Support Services staff for guidance regarding who to include on the team and how to discuss such information with the parent/guardian if appropriate. The student’s supportive team should develop a plan that identifies strategies for supporting the student.
Rules and regulations for participation of transgender students in high school sports and middle school sports are governed by the NC High School Athletic Association and NCDPI, respectively. Requests by transgender students to participate in athletics on teams consistent with their gender identity should be handled on a case-by-case basis in consultation with DPS Central Services staff and legal counsel as appropriate.
GENDER SPECIFIC CLASSES & EXTRACURRICULARS
Transgender students should have the same educational and extra-curricular opportunities as non-transgender students. In the case that the school maintains gender specific classes or team structures, the student and the student’s support team should be consulted on the student’s placement.
Schools may enforce dress codes pursuant to District policy, but any such dress codes may not be enforced based on gender or gender stereotypes. Students shall have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity and expression, including maintaining a gender neutral appearance within the constraints of the dress codes adopted by the school. School staff shall not enforce a school’s dress code more strictly against transgender and gender nonconforming students than other students.
RESTROOM OR LOCKER ROOM ACCESS
If transgender students or their parents raise questions about access to restrooms or locker rooms, the goal should be to arrive at a solution that respects the safety, dignity, and privacy of all students while also generally taking into account the student’s gender identity. Some transgender students may prefer having access to a private restroom, and such requests should be accommodated to the extent feasible. Some characteristics that may make a private restroom feel less isolating:
- Is the alternative restroom constantly open and available?
- Are other students allowed to use the alternative restroom?
- Are the alternative restrooms located throughout the school?
Transgender students should generally be provided with access to the facility consistent with their gender identity and may not be not forced to use a private facility. General concerns about the discomfort of other students is not a sufficient reason to deny access to a facility that is consistent with a student’s gender identity. Requests for unrestricted access to facilities based on a student’s gender identity (as opposed to biological sex) should be handled on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with DPS Central Services staff and legal counsel as appropriate. Things to consider when evaluating the request:
- Can all students still preserve privacy (with curtains, stalls, doors)?
- Can something be done to provide greater privacy within the restroom/locker room (e.g., adding doors, adding curtains)?
- Is there a specific safety concern about providing access to the group bathroom? If there is a safety concern, can it be addressed through increased monitoring or supervision of the area?
As we process restroom requests, schools should try to create a safe and open dialogue through in-person meetings of the student support team.
- One way to set a productive tone is to start the meeting by asking how the student is doing and letting him or her know that the administration supports him or her and wants to ensure that the school is a safe and welcoming environment.
- Consider having a counselor attend the meeting and to ask if there are any peer issues or other problems of which the school should be aware.
- The goal of the meeting is for the transgender student and the student’s parents to feel respected and able to freely share their thoughts and perspectives. It is not strictly necessary to immediately reach final decisions on all points under discussion.
- If any particular issues cannot be resolved at the initial meeting, the principal can let the family know that the principal appreciates the open dialogue, that it is helpful to have a clearer understanding of their perspective, and that the principal will follow up after considering the issues further.
OVERNIGHT FIELD TRIPS
Consider following the meeting/support team format discussed in the restroom/locker room section. Consider the transgender student’s preferences:
- Does the transgender student have privacy or safety concerns about rooming with other students?
- Are there safety concerns about rooming with students of the same biological sex? Of the same gender identity? Are there ways to address these safety concerns through supervision or monitoring?
- Are there other students who will have separate or private rooms?
- Does the transgender student have a friend with whom to share a room and do both students want to share the room?
Title IX accommodations allow for the preferred student name to be used at the graduation ceremony. It is recommended that the student’s preferred name be called. Since this action would be considered an accommodation under Title IX due to gender identity, this allowance does not apply to any student who requests that a nickname or other name be called at graduation, only those whose requests are linked to gender identity.
The student’s official transcript should continue to use the student’s legal name as the student’s primary name.
HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA
The district will continue with the procedures in place for issuing the high school diploma and protocols for graduation ceremony. High schools will issue the diploma with the legal name as it appears on the birth certificate.
- No nicknames
- No individualization of names on the diploma
- No individualization of names at the graduation ceremony
If a student requests that the high school diploma use the first and middle names that the student has adopted for gender identity purposes regardless of whether the student has legally changed his/her name, the district will honor the request to accommodate the student and protect his/her confidentiality. The student must complete and submit the “Request for Name Change on High School Diploma” to the principal.
SAFE SPACES IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
There are many places in the virtual learning environment where student names may be displayed. Durham Public Schools considers software display names in the same category as “preferred name” in PowerSchool. Students should be permitted to change their display names in all software when they are able to control this feature, and can request a change of their display name in Canvas and Zoom to align with their gender identity through their school administration in cases where they cannot. Additionally, teachers should start the year with the “people” tab on Canvas hidden in order to protect the privacy of students while classes become oriented to their Canvas community. In Zoom, students should be permitted to change their display name and encouraged to display their pronouns.
Durham Public Schools Board Policy 1710/4021/7230 includes the following language:
The board directs the superintendent to establish training and other programs that are designed to prevent discrimination, harassment, and bullying and to foster an environment of understanding and respect for all members of the school community. Information about this policy and the related complaint procedure must be included in the training plan. This training should teach employees to identify groups that may be the target of discrimination, harassment, or bullying.
In alignment with this board directive, Durham Public Schools Office of Student Support Services, Human Resources Department and the Office of Equity Affairs will create an initial training for school-based staff to familiarize them with the DPS Gender Support Guidance as well as an annual training. The annual training may be paired with school planning and can be led by school-based representatives.
To view a copy of Gender Support Guidelines for DPS staff and community, please click here.
Presented: May 19, 2016
Updated: May 16, 2018
Updated: March 18, 2022