WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield school board Tuesday took steps toward approving three state-mandated policies, including one outlining procedures for students who identify as transgender.
During its meeting, the board approved for first reading a state-mandated policy on transgender pupils by a 7-0 vote. Board members Robert Garrison and Michael Bielen were not present.
Westfield resident Dan Eckert asked the board for more details on the policy.
“Can you go into detail as to what that policy involves?” Eckert asked. “Specifically, how do you plan on implementing the policy?”
Superintendent Margaret Dolan explained that the policy outlines procedures the district must follow when a student identifies as transgender.
“It starts with the counselor and/or the administrator in the school [talking] to the student,” Dolan said. “[The district] work[s] with the student to determine what is the best course for working with the student as they either transition or as they determine that they are transgender. And the answer is not the same for every child.”
“Just as no child is the same, no child who is transgender is the same, so the schools work with the child and with the parents as well,” she said. “And we’ve done that successfully for many years, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Dolan also clarified the local impact of a state law that does not require districts to notify parents.
“The state law says … that the school does not have to notify the parent,” she said. “Westfield’s experience has been, in every case, we have worked with both the student and the parent.”
As Dolan explained, having students who are transgender in the district is not a new concept.
“Having students who are transgender, we’ve never had large numbers, but we’ve always had students,” Dolan said. “It’s not a new thing.”
Eckert asked whether the implementation of the policy considers potential effects on other students. “The implementation that you’re doing, does that take into account the effects that this might have on students that are not transgender?” Eckert asked.
“Our experience has been that that has not been a problem,” Dolan responded. “This is not a new topic. It’s not new because there’s a law. This is a topic that’s been around for decades.”
“Our experience has not been that that has negatively impacted any other students,” she added.
In the same vote, the board also approved for first reading state-mandated policies that address administration of the opioid antidote naloxone — commonly called Narcan — and electronic surveillance in school buildings and grounds.
“The school nurses will be trained in how to train other teachers to administer [naloxone] to the students if it were ever needed,” Galligan said. “That’s really the only change there. Most of our teachers have some kind of first aid training to begin with so this is just a step above that.”