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Highland Park school board to vote on transgender policy

Posted at 6:20 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 18:20:39-04

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — On the heels of President Obama’s transgender bathroom order, school board members in Highland Park are scheduled to meet and vote Monday evening on what could be the most progressive transgender school policy in the state.

The policy would allow transgender students access to bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams that align with their gender identity. A co-author of the policy said that what makes this approach unique are gender support plans. If adopted, school officials will work with transgender students and families to create a written plan for how the student wants to be addressed — by what name, and as a he or she. They will also identify what facilities the student needs access to and who they are comfortable sharing their gender status with.

“It makes a tremendous difference for the transgender students, even to the point sometimes of life and death because these kids are at very, very high risk of suicide,” said Stephanie Sasso, a parent and clinical psychologist who helped to write the policy. "Being able to access those facilities, being able to play sports with their friends, it’s really what all kids need."

Students who spoke to PIX11 News said that the climate in the halls ahead of the meeting has been positive.

“It’s just really nice to feel like our school is being accepting of us,” said Jessica Robinson, a senior at Highland Park High School who co-leads a LGBTQ student group, “Change can be scary but the most important thing is to be accepting and affirming of some of the most vulnerable students in our schools.”

Tonight’s meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. at Irving School.