Mountainside School Board Mulls Transgender Student Policy

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – The state Department of Education is recommending school districts in New Jersey, including Mountainside's, adopt a policy essentially ensuring equal educational opportunities and equal access for transgender students.

Several Mountainside school board members, however, expressed disapproval over some of the language in the draft policy text as sent by the state. Versions of the Department of Education's policy No. 5756 titled “Transgender Students” can be found online.

Board of Education Vice-President Christopher Minks voiced his concerns over the policy as currently written.  

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“We want to support any and all people with different types of life experiences, but this is an interesting policy for the state to be promoting,” he said. “It doesn't seem to me [that the policy goes] to the benefit of the people that it's supposed to be protecting, and rather, I think it leaves open the door to there potentially being a significant liability to this district.”

The board vice-president said the draft policy places a lot “on our administrators to make independent determinations” involving transgender students enrolled in Mountainside's kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school district.

“This may be more appropriate for a high school district, or a high school, or a college,” Minks said.

“There are issues in transgender scenarios that obviously are sensitive issues. What locker room does the child utilize? What bathroom does the child utilize? I mean, these are issues that affect the overall student (population), so we have to be very very careful about making policy,” he said. “As we do with all the policies, we look at them very carefully to make sure that they are not going to potentially do more harm than good.”

School board member Dante Gioia said he has “a lot of problems” with the draft policy.

“I think we should all read it and study it,” Gioia said.

Mountainside Board of Education President James Ruban said he believes the problem with the policy in its original form ”stems from the incredible bureaucratic nature of it.”

“But you just can't leave it open,” Board member Kate Motz said, suggesting that some version of the state-recommended policy be adopted.

Board President Ruban suggested paring down the original policy language.

Another suggestion was made for board members to offer revisions to the policy text language prior to a public hearing on the matter and before a final version of the policy is voted on at an upcoming school board meeting, perhaps on Oct. 27.

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