KENNEBUNK - At the RSU 21 Board of Directors meeting Monday night, board members got a first look at the district's new transgender policy drafted by the policy committee this summer.
Mary Beth Luce, chair of the policy committee, said that they are hoping to put the policy in place as soon as possible. Hawes said the district was advised by their legal counsel to begin the process of drafting a policy following the Maine Supreme Court decision in January of 2014 which guarantees the right of a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the gender with which he or she identifies.
I think that this is a policy whose time has come and I appreciate that this is something that is being put into place," board member Erin Nadeau said.
Board member Jeff Cole said he would be the first to admit that the subject made him a little uncomfortable, but that it was one the district needed to address. Cole said the policy committee has done a good job at taking a first stab at a district policy, but questioned why medical personnel were not required to be involved.
Luce explained that per the policy, each student who identified as transgender would meet with building administrators and guidance counselors to put a plan in place for that student. She said they would be welcome to have medical professionals present if they want, but that it will not be required. In those meetings, it will be decided what restrooms the student will use, what locker rooms they'll use to change for physical education classes, and what gender they will participate as in sports.
Luce said that the expectation is that there will be a full plan in place for any student that is presenting as transgender.
Hawes said the policy RSU 21 is proposing is a model that came from the law offices of Drummond Woodsum and the Maine School Management Association.
"We took this model and made a few tweaks to it," Hawes said. "It has been vetted by attorneys and it's the one they recommend."
The draft policy states that its purpose is to "foster a learning environment that is safe and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying; and assists in the educational and social integration of transgender students in our schools." It also states that the policy is "not intended to anticipate every possible situation that may occur, since the needs of particular students and families differ depending on the student's age and other factors. Administrators and school staff are expected to consider the needs of students on a case-by-case basis."
The policy defines terms such as sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and transgender. The definitions are not intended to be rigid labels for students, but to assist in discussing and addressing the needs of students. It states that administrators, school staff, volunteers, students and others who interact with students are expected to be sensitive in the ways a particular student wishes to be identified, but for the sake of brevity the policy uses the general term "transgender students".
The policy also addresses student privacy, including FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations, as well as staff training and informational materials. The policy says that teachers and other staff members who have responsibilities for a transgender student will receive support in implementing the plan.
The board discussed clarifications to the policy, which will be taken up by the policy committee before presenting a draft for a second reading at the district board meeting in September.
Building project update
The board heard the plans for hiring a consulting owner's representative to assist the district in the oversight and management of the $56.5 million, three-school renovation and construction project. Hawes said they anticipate approximately three to six hours per week of technical support who will work closely with the in-house building project coordinator. Hawes said that Kevin Crowley will serve as the in-house building project coordinator. Crowley, who is returning to Mildred L. Day School as principal after a year as interim superintendent, has several years of experience in the construction field. Hawes said Crowley's first career was running a multi-million dollar electrical company in Massachusetts, Crowley Electric, where he worked on hospitals, schools and universities. RSU 21 Business Administrator Bruce Rudolph will also oversee the construction projects.
An interview team comprised of two school board members, Amy Johnson, chair of the Facilities Committee, and Maureen King, Rudolph, Crowley and Hawes posted the position this week, and hopes to have the selection process completed by the end of August. The nominee for the Consulting Owner's Representative will be presented to the school board during a special meeting on Aug. 20. Hawes said the final approval of the candidate rests with the Maine Bureau of General Services.
In other business, Hawes updated the board on the deed to Mildred L. Day School. According to Rudolph, former Arundel town manager Todd Shea noticed there was not a deed to the school prior to his departure from the position. The district needs a deed in order to borrow the money for the renovation bonds, and attorneys for the town of Arundel and the RSU are currently drafting a deed. Hawes said the RSU owns the school building, and the town owns the fields, which can only be accessed through the school parking lot. The deed is being drafted to ensure the town retains the right of way to the fields. She said if the school were ever closed and/or sold, the town would have first rights to purchase the building, and would retain the right of way to the fields into perpetuity.
Hawes said the deed should be completed so that the RSU board can take action on it at the Sept. 17 meeting, and the Arundel Selectmen will do the same at their meeting on Sept. 24.. Rudolph said this was a situation that was fairly common across the state when RSU's were formed, and it is not delaying the bond schedule for the renovation project.