News (USA)

Omaha school district considers transgender policy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha school district is considering updating its anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity or gender expression.

Omaha Public Schools board member Marian Frey said at a Monday meeting that the district should also directly address accommodations for bathrooms, locker rooms and other areas that affect transgender students.

The district’s policy was written in 2014 and bans discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, disability and age.

Board member Katie Underwood said there had been a lack of leadership from the state on the issue and that comprehensive anti-discrimination policies are the bedrock of public schools, while board president Lou Ann Goding expressed concerns about student privacy.

President Barack Obama’s administration earlier this year issued a directive to public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. Gov. Pete Ricketts has said that the directive is a federal overreach and should be ignored by schools.

The Nebraska State Board of Education resolution calling for the rejection of federal guidance ended in a deadlock earlier this month.

According to board member Lacey Merica, students and staff should be surveyed to see how current policies can be made stronger.

Resident Ben Perlman said at the meeting that children would not be put at risk if students were allowed to use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity, but Gwen Easter said she would not be comfortable with her nieces and nephews using the bathroom with transgender students.

“I don’t want my nieces and nephews growing up believing all this stuff is normal when it isn’t,” Easter said.

Eris Koleszar, a transgender woman, said inaction would reinforce transgender students’ fears that there is no room for them in the school district.

The board took no action Monday. The board’s policy committee is scheduled to meet June 29 and is expected to discuss the matter further.

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