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First-Grade Transgender Student Incites Fayetteville Leaders To Talk School Accommodations

Karin Vlietstra via Flickr

After events involving a six-year-old student who identifies as the opposite gender, a Cumberland County school board member says he hopes to develop a policy on how to accommodate transgender and gender nonconforming students. 

A first-grade student at Fayetteville’s Howard Hall Elementary School prompted the discussion when parents expressed they weren’t notified that the child, born a boy, began wearing girl’s clothes. The story, first reported by WRAL, also mentions that the child attended the girls' bathroom and began going by a female name. 

According to board member Michael Boose, parents with children in the class were aware and accepting of the situation, until some parents grew upset at rumors that the child was given special accommodations and privileges.

“We'll enact whatever policy needs to make sure that this child is welcome in the schools, not bullied, not ridiculed,” Boose said. “But also at the same time we can't give the child his own bathroom, there can't be special dressing areas or something just for that child.”

We will enact whatever policy needs to make sure that this child is welcome in the schools, not bullied, not ridiculed. But also at the same time we can't give the child his own bathroom, there can't be special dressing areas or something just for that child. - Michael Boose

If leaders decide to move forward, Cumberland County would be the first school district in the state with a specific policy that addresses transgender students, according to Timeout Youth - an organization that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

“This is an issue becoming more and more present in school districts across the country, so it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this develop more in North Carolina,” said Micah Johnson, Timeout Youth’s director of School Outreach.

What's Required

North Carolina schools are required to address sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in anti-bullying policies, but not in non-discrimination policies. According to the Trans Youth Equality Foundation, Guilford County Schools is one of the few public school districts in the country with inclusive gender identity language in its non-discrimination policy.

Johnson, who works with schools in the Charlotte and surrounding areas, says other school districts like Cumberland County are exploring the idea of creating a specific policy and examining how current state and federal law address the topic.

Despite the efforts of school board member Michael Boose, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till says he doesn’t support the idea of implementing a policy. He maintains that the current language in the anti-bullying policy protects students and that events should be handled on a case-to-case basis.

School board member Michael Boose says he hopes to garner support at a policy meeting later this month.

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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