DES MOINES, Iowa – On Monday, the Linn-Mar School Board voted 5 to 2 to adopt a new transgender/gender nonconforming student policy after hearing from 75 members of the public during their meeting, with the vast majority speaking out against the policy.
The policy clarifies their confidentiality policy regarding transgender students and is edited from the first reading.
It states, “All persons, including students, have a right to privacy which includes the right to keep one’s transgender status private at school. Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth may also constitute personally identifiable information. Disclosing this information other than as allowed by law is not permitted. Conversations between students and school counselors are protected, confidential conversations under applicable counselor/student laws.”
It adds, “School staff should always check with the student first before contacting their parent/guardian. School staff should ask the student what name and pronouns they would like school officials to use in communications with their family. All students under 18 years of age or those over 18 years of age who are claimed as dependents by their parents/guardians for tax purposes, should be aware that a parent/guardian has the right to review their student’s education records under FERPA.”
The new policy also requires staff to address students by their preferred name and pronouns.
“Every student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity. A court-ordered name or gender change is not required, and the student need not change official school records,” the policy reads.
The policy also states that transgender students have the right to access school restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“With respect to restrooms, locker rooms, and/or changing facilities; students shall have access to facilities that correspond to their gender identity. Buildings may maintain separate restrooms, locker rooms, or changing facilities for male and female students provided they allow students to access them based on their gender identity. No student shall be required to use an all-gender or secure-access restroom, a nurse’s restroom, a privacy partition/curtain, and/or an all-gender locker room because they are transgender, gender nonconforming, or questioning their gender. Access to restrooms and locker rooms for nonbinary students and students questioning their gender will be determined on a case-by-case basis while providing students with options that allow for them to feel safest and most included,” the policy states.
It provides an exemption for students who feel uncomfortable with this policy.
“Regardless of gender identity, any student who is uncomfortable using a shared facility regardless of the reason shall, upon the student’s and/or a parent/guardian request, be provided with a safe and non-stigmatizing alternative. This may include, for example, addition of a privacy partition/curtain, provision to use a nearby private restroom/office, or a separate changing schedule,” the new policy states.
The school’s proposed policy appears to violate the new state law prohibiting biological males from participating in women’s sports that took effect immediately after passage.
“All students shall be permitted to participate in physical education classes, intramural sports, clubs, and school events in a manner consistent with their gender identity. Students may enroll in physical education classes that correspond with their gender identity, correspond with their sex assigned at birth, or that are not gender-specific. As a member of the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU), the district follows their policies and recommendations for transgender athletic participation,” it states.
“No student shall be denied the right to participate in an overnight field trip because the student is transgender, gender nonconforming, or questioning their gender. Students shall be allowed to room with other students who share their gender identity or where they feel safest and most included. Accommodations on overnight trips for nonbinary students and students questioning their gender will be determined on a case-by-case basis with an emphasis on providing students with options that allow for them to feel safest and most included. No student should be forced to room by themselves because they are transgender, gender nonconforming, or questioning their gender,” it reads.
The policy in the second reading still erroneously states that the federal Title IX law includes gender identity as a protected class. It does not, and the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, links gender identity discrimination to sex discrimination only applied to Title VI. In addition, in a recent ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected the Supreme Court’s opinion that gender identity is included in sex discrimination.
The board invited one of the school’s attorneys to discuss the new policy and answer board questions. She said that the policy is aligned with guidance provided in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama. However, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance, and President Joe Biden committed to providing similar guidance.
Board member Matt Rollinger attempted to have the board table the policy, stating that the board needed to discuss and review the policy further in light of the community opposition.
Board member Rachel Wall said that the policy followed the law, and there is little room to modify the document further. She accused Rollinger of trying to foster greater disunity instead of educating the public.
By a 5 to 2 vote, the board defeated Rollinger’s motion to table the policy for further discussion. They then voted 5 to 2 to approve the new policy.
Matt Rollinger and Barry Buchholz voted against the policy, while Brittania Morey, Clark Weaver, Sondra Nelson, Melissa Walker, and Rachel Wall voted in favor.
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, who has two children that attend school in the district, blasted the school board’s decision.
“Across the country, and now at Linn-Mar, there has been a disturbing trend of parents being boxed out of decisions that should be made between a parent and their child, not between a school and a child. My two boys, Max (11) and Jax (9), attend Linn-Mar schools. There is nothing I care more about than their wellbeing and happiness. As their mom, I need to know about, and be actively involved in, decisions that impact them. I oppose this policy, and others like it, that wrongly circumvent and undermine parents,” she said.
Hinson is a co-sponsor of the Parents Bill of Rights Act, legislation that affirms parents should be notified and consulted about what is happening at their child’s school, including medical or mental health issues regarding their child.
Read the school district’s new policy below as published for the second reading.Linn-Mar-Code-504.13