The Portland, Maine School Board unanimously voted in a comprehensive new policy that protects transgender and gender nonconforming students at its November 28 meeting.
The policy includes protections for students to use restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity, allows students to use pronouns of their choice, calls for gender-neutral dress codes and annual gender-issues training for teachers and staff, and more.
“Having grown up as a bisexual, transgender person and not having any support, I probably never thought there would be a place and a time where schools would be voting on a policy that would affirm my identity,” Gia Drew of Equality Maine told Maine Public Broadcasting. “And having been a teacher for 20 years and having to teach and hiding most of that time, I, of course, thought this would never happen. And so here we are, and I think this is going to be a great beacon to other schools across the state.”
Drew worked with a group of school board members, parents, teachers, students and other advocates for seven months to draft the policy.
“You know, mostly we’ve heard really positive — you saw really positive comments today,” School Superintendent Xavier Botana told the Maine Public reporter. “You know, we’ve gotten some not so positive comments — not, frankly, from people from Portland, but from people in other parts of the country who’ve heard about it and have chosen to react in ways that suggest they know what we should do better than the people in Portland do.”
The policy, Maine Public also noted, is consistent with Maine law that requires non-discrimination in schools.