NEW BRITAIN - The Board of Education approved a five-page policy statement Monday on the treatment of transgender and gender-nonconforming students in the city school district.
The policy essentially sets guidelines for school and district staff on how to address the needs of transgender and gender-nonconforming students and aligns the district’s policies with state law.
The policy contains definitions for terms such as “gender identity,” “transgender,” “gender expression” and “cisgender,” while also detailing how school officials should keep records, address students who are gender-non-conforming and more.
“This policy does not anticipate every situation that might occur with respect to transgender or gender-nonconforming students and the needs of each transgender or gender-nonconforming student must be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” part of the policy reads. “In all cases, the goal is to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender-nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.”
Several members of the board spoke in favor of the new policy and said it would provide a good guideline for schools.
“This is an issue that I feel very strongly about,” Board of Education Vice President Nick Mercier said, adding that he has a nephew who went through a gender-transition process. “It’s something that we tend to ignore in society and in schools, and I was really impressed because this is one of the policies we reached out directly to staff about and I wasn’t sure what we were going to get back.”
Mercier said the feedback from staff was very positive.
“As a father of a trans graduate of New Britain High, I strongly support this,” board member Merrill Gay said.
Gay said John Board, president of New Britain Pride, the city’s LGBTQ advocacy group, was very supportive of the policy.
Board member Jim Sanders said it’s important to protect people through policies like this.
Nancy Rodriguez cast the lone vote against the policy, citing personal beliefs.
The board also unanimously passed an equality and diversity policy statement with the purpose of “establishing a framework for the elimination of bias, particularly racism and cultural bias, as factors affecting student achievement and learning experiences, and to promote learning and work environments that welcome, respect and value diversity.”
The policy lists several responsibilities and goals for educators and the school district, and said that the superintendent will submit an annual report to the board regarding progress in closing the achievement gap among students in New Britain.
Both policy statements can be found on the school district’s website.
In other action Monday, the Board of Education unanimously voted to allow Board of Education President Nicole Rodriguez to enter into negotiations to extend Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra’s contract through June 30, 2021. The contract would have to be approved by the full board.
“We’re going to keep you as long as we possibly can,” school board Secretary Gayle Sanders-Connolly told Sarra during the meeting.
According to the school district, Sarra’s salary is $170,850 this year and will be $174,267 in fiscal year 2020. Around this time last year, the board extended her previous contract to June 30, 2020.
Under Connecticut General Statues, superintendent contracts can have a maximum term of three years.
Sarra was promoted to superintendent in 2016.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.