Lake Stevens School Board passes Gender-Inclusive Schools policy

Policy NO. 5590, adopted by the school district Aug. 25 2021 will expand the protection and rights of transgender individuals in the District.


Graphic created by Hailey Cordell

Gender dysphoria: A study conducted by Cedars-Sinai in which adult transgender individuals were surveyed found that most transgender individuals experienced gender dysphoria in their developmental years. Lake Stevens School District Policy 5590 aims to make transgender youth comfortable and safe at school. “It’s probably going to ruffle some feathers and cause some waves in our community, and I would say that based on the response to our last policy five years ago, I think our district is ready for this,” counselor Angelia Riebli said.

Lake Stevens, WA Aug. 25 2021- Lake Stevens School Board adopted Policy no. 5590, Gender-Inclusive Schools. Policy 5590 maintains a focus on using correct terms, properly respecting transgender students’ wishes when communicating and involving family, and communication of use of name and pronouns.

Policy 5590 establishes that students, regardless of age, have the right to be referred to by their correct names and pronouns at school if they so choose.

“This policy is a component of the District’s responsibility to create and maintain a safe, civil, respectful and inclusive learning community and will be implemented in conjunction with comprehensive training of staff and volunteers,” Policy 5590 states.

Washinton state previously mandated that schools include transgender students in harassment policies and protections; Policy 5590 will expand upon this past policy by ensuring students have the right to be referred to as they choose.

“We did that, and in addition to that we created that form to support our students who identify as non-binary to help support them and make a plan for parents to be on the same page as the school,” Lake Stevens High School counselor Angela Riebli said.

Prior to policy No. 5590, students who desired a name or gender change in Skyward needed parent permission to allow for this change.

While students have the right to change their name and or gender marker in Skyward without parent permission, it is encouraged by counselors to have parent approval if possible.

“We have this policy that supports students. What we don’t have is a way to protect you at home if it doesn’t go over well. Unfortunately, that means some students may choose to not take advantage of the independence that they have with this new policy because it’s just going to cause too many troubles at home,” Riebli said.

Counselors can help to facilitate a conversation with parents and offer support to students. Counselors are also available to help students communicate students’ names and pronouns to their teachers if students do not desire to make this change in Skyward.

“We can help have that conversation, but you would have the district support behind you and this district policy behind you saying ‘I’m allowed to do this,’” Riebli said.

Correlation between incorrect use of transgender youth’s names and pronouns and suicide and depression rates exist. Research led by The University of Texas.

Policy 5590 highlights the necessity of communicating with students in regards to what level of awareness they want their guardians to have about their gender identity at school.

Gender-inclusive schools encourage staff to request to speak to transgender students to understand the students’ needs (although schools are not to require students to attend such meetings). Staff is to speak with the student about their preference of family knowledge of the students’ gender identity before the school contacts parents or guardians, and also to see if the student requests additional support.

Staff is to work with the student to create a support system to make sure they feel comfortable attending school.

“When a student discloses information to a teacher, counselor, or other staff members about their gender identity, the school counselor will privately ask the student how they want to be addressed in class, in correspondence to the home, and at conference with the student’s parent/guardian,” Policy 5590 states.

Policy 5590 recognizes the negative impact of transgender students being outed to parents in some cases.

“For parents who aren’t supportive, or who are not aware of the student’s transition at school, referring to their name and pronoun could be very dangerous,” Policy 5590 states.

Gender-inclusive schools, Riebli believes, are important because it states that it is a student’s right to identify as the gender they most align with and with their correct name.

“And so what this new policy is going to do is take us to the next step with civil rights and say, you know what? This should be more of a right, not something students should have to ask for permission for. And we are not looking to make trouble with families; we’re working to make students feel safe and honored and seen,” Riebli said.

Senior Kadie Miller recognizes how important it is for staff members to properly communicate with students about their gender identity at school versus home.

“I believe all teachers and staff should respect students’ preferred pronouns, and ya know, not be transphobic. They should also be careful not to out the student to their family and should communicate with the student beforehand in case their family is not supportive of their identity,” Miller said.

One anonymous junior plans on taking advantage of the new policy, and hopes they will see improvements when it comes to using correct names and pronouns from staff.

“They forget or they just, they write it down on attendance and then forget even though it’s right there. Just respect what they want. That’s pretty much all they need, you can’t really throw pride every day,” he said.

“Ensuring that transgender youth are referred to according to their identified genders, and with their chosen names, is a critical factor in establishing this type of environment,” details in their research about the risk of misgendering transgender youth.

Bathroom access for transgender students follows the policy the school previously held; students are able to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Students are also able to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. If a student does not feel safe doing so, they can speak with counselors in order to create a plan to change in a comfortable alternate location.

“And that’s been in place for a long time. I’ve never heard of an issue with that. I think when we started this five or six years ago we were really nervous and wanted to put a discipline plan in place. Like what are we going to do with the jokers that walk in and be like ‘I’m transgender I’m going to be in the girl’s locker room today.’ What we realized is that that never happened. It’s going to take a pretty bold person to want to make that joke,” Riebli said.

Students are also able to receive two diplomas at graduation and can communicate what name they want to be announced.

“In the past, we have had the occasional student who just chose not to participate in graduation because they didn’t want to hear their deadname called,” Riebli said.

After a year of anti-transgender legislation being proposed and passed across the country, Lake Stevens School District is reaffirming they are a district that is attempting to ensure that transgender students are as safe at school.

Roll out of Policy 5590 requires a primary contact from each school participating in at least one mandatory training opportunity offered by OSPI. Staff will be trained when possible, though it may be slow due to covid.

“Not only is this a step in the right direction for LSHS, but it’s also a step in the right direction for America. I’m looking forward to fellow Americans becoming more accepting of LGBT+ people. I think the more people who support this cause, the more people who will become supportive in America and support trans rights,” Miller said.