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Thriving, Not Just Surviving: How Administrators Can Support Trans & Non-Binary Students

Thriving, Not Just Surviving: How Administrators Can Support Trans & Non-Binary Students

Date of the Event: July 27, 2021 | Seth Daub, Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis, Michelle Nutter, Michael Roth, Marianna Stepniak, and Barrett Wilkinson
Show Notes:

In MAEC’s June webinar, a panel of trans and non-binary students identified what educators and administrators can do to create and maintain positive, supportive school climates where LGBTQIA+ students can thrive. This webinar will focus on a discussion with school and district administrators on the policies and practices they have implemented to support LGBTQIA+ students at school.

Marianna Stepniak:

Hi, everyone who’s coming in. Welcome wherever you’re coming from. It’s 2:00 o’clock here. Maybe it’s 1:00 o’clock where you are or 12:00. We’re glad to have you here today for this conversation. We’re going to get started in just a couple of minutes. So please come and take your time, get ready for a great webinar. And as you’re coming in, if you could add to the chat your name and where you’re coming from,...

Marianna Stepniak:

Hi, everyone who’s coming in. Welcome wherever you’re coming from. It’s 2:00 o’clock here. Maybe it’s 1:00 o’clock where you are or 12:00. We’re glad to have you here today for this conversation. We’re going to get started in just a couple of minutes. So please come and take your time, get ready for a great webinar. And as you’re coming in, if you could add to the chat your name and where you’re coming from, where in the country you are, where in the world you are, please do so. We love to hear who’s coming to webinars and where are they are.

Marianna Stepniak:

Stacey, I know you. Welcome. For folks who are just joining, please… Hello, hello. Please add your name and where you’re coming from to the chat. As I said, we’d love to see who’s coming to these webinars and where they’re coming from. So looking through here, we have folks from Florida, South Carolina, Maryland State Department of Education, Pennsylvania, Maine. We are all over. Philadelphia, Maryland Juvenile Services, education in Pennsylvania. This is great.

Marianna Stepniak:

For folks who are just joining us, please add to the chat where you’re coming from today and your name. We love to say hello in this way and greet you over the chat. So I’m just reading some of those out loud right now. We have Columbia, South Carolina, California, all over. Thanks for joining us today. We’re going to get started in just a couple of minutes around 2:03, some more minutes.

Marianna Stepniak:

We have someone from O-H-I-O, Ohio, Maine, Utah, all over. For folks who are just joining, please add to the chat your name and where you’re coming from. We’re really glad to have you here today. New Jersey, Rhode Island, Upper Moreland, Pennsylvania. That’s awesome. US Virgin Islands, that’s fantastic. Portland, Maine. I’m seeing lots of enthusiasm for the folks who are our panelists today. We’re so glad to have you here. Rockville, Maryland, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. This is fabulous.

Marianna Stepniak:

All right. I think we’re going to go ahead and get started. So thank you. Everyone who’s joining us today, we are so excited that you’re here. And I have a dog in the background who keeps wondering who I’m talking to right now, but we’re so glad to have you here. Welcome to Thriving, Not Just Surviving: How Administrators Can Support Trans & Non-Binary Students. We’re going to get started with this really important conversation.

Marianna Stepniak:

So just some webinar etiquette to get us started. You all are probably pretty used to this. We’ve been on Zoom a lot these days, but here are some ground rules. So please use the chat box to engage with other participants. You can just click on the icon on the bottom or top toolbar of your screen, but for folks who are adding in where they’re coming from today, which is great. We will also have a Q&A at the end of this webinar. But if you have questions at any point in time, please add them to that button. That’s a separate button than the chat you’ll see. So click on the Q&A box with any questions you might have.

Marianna Stepniak:

You will notice that there are live captions on right now. If you don’t want them on right now, you can use your webinar controls at the bottom of the Zoom screen and click the live transcript or closed caption button, and then click hide subtitle. That’ll make them go away. If you want them to come back again, you can repeat that step and click show subtitle instead. And again, those that’s for the live captions at the bottom of your screen. All right. For our conversation today, we have two moderators, myself. My name is Marianna Stepniak, and I am the program communications associate at MAEC and my colleague who will introduce herself.

Michelle Nutter:

Hi everyone, Michelle Nutter. I’m a senior educational equity specialist here with MAEC. Thank you so much for joining us.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thanks, Michelle. We’re really glad to be with all of you today. And of course, we have to think our webinar support team as well. So we have Nikevia Thomas who is our ALIVE program director, and she is on top of chat support. So if you have any questions about, “I’m not sure how to use this feature, help, I need to do this thing,” Nikevia is the person to ask. You can reach out to her directly in the chat.

Marianna Stepniak:

We also have Kathleen Pulupa who is our communications coordinator and who is monitoring Facebook LIVE and is our tech lead for this webinar. Thank you so much, Kathleen and Nikevia for your help today. All right. And of course we have our presenters. We have four wonderful presenters with us today and you’ll hear a lot more from them later. So for right now, I’m just going to read their names and titles, and I promise you there’ll be files later.

Marianna Stepniak:

So we have Seth Daub who’s principal of Orange County Public Schools Academic Center for Excellence in Florida, Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis who is the NAESP president, and that stands for National Association of Elementary School Principals and principal of Cordova Elementary Optional School in Tennessee. We have Michael Roth who’s superintendent of Upper Moreland School District in Pennsylvania, and Barrett Wilkinson who is equity specialist in Portland Public Schools in Maine. We are so excited for you to hear from them soon.

Marianna Stepniak:

Before we hop into that, we’re going to give you some background information about who we are and what we do. So we are MAEC. We were founded in 1992 as an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to high quality education for culturally diverse, linguistically and economically diverse learners. We envision a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. And our mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice.

Marianna Stepniak:

We believe that all students deserve to feel welcomed, respected, and safe at school and provided with the opportunities to thrive. One of our biggest projects is a center for education equity or CEE, and we partner with WestEd and the American Institute for Research for this project or AIR. CEE is one of four regional equity assistance centers across the country funded by the US Department of Education under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And on this next side, we’ll show you a map of our region.

Marianna Stepniak:

So as I said, we are one of four regions. We reach all the way down from Maine… up from Maine down to Kentucky, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Our goals with CEE are to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education systems to address problems caused by segregation and inequities, and to increase equitable educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin, English learners.

Marianna Stepniak:

We provide technical assistance and training to FDAs, LEAs, schools and community-based organizations within our region at the request of school boards and other responsible governmental agencies. And now I’m going to pass it over to Michelle to talk about the previous webinar we had in this series of Thriving, Not Just Surviving. Michelle?

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you Marianna. Again, thank you everyone for joining us today. Last month at the end of June, we hosted the first in this series and it was a conversation with students. And you can see from the screenshot that’s on your… visible to you right now, we had a wonderful panel of students who identify as transgender, non-binary and we’ve just really wanted to hear from them what we as educators could do to best support them and make school a place where they could thrive and not just survive.

Michelle Nutter:

So you can see our student panelists in this shot right here. And we also had two amazing experts who started our webinar. And if we go to the next slides, we’ll talk about what we learned from them. So the first presenter was Preston Heldibridle from the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. And Preston gave us a wonderful presentation around the language of gender identity. And we have some resources listed here on the slide that go along with Preston’s presentation.

Michelle Nutter:

And I see that Nikevia has been posting the link to student webinars, to the transcripts and to resources that we identified in that first webinar. But that was the first piece we thought it was really important so that we would ground the conversation, that as our students were talking, that everybody would be on the same page and understand terms that were being used. And then we went to the next expert who is Shiwali Patel from the National Women’s Law Center.

Michelle Nutter:

And Shiwali gave us a really, really quick, but really thorough overview of how Title IX is being interpreted now in 2021 and the Biden administration’s interpretation and relying on the Bostick Supreme Court decision to say that Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination does include discrimination or harassment that is based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. And so Shiwali provided us with a lot of great insight.

Michelle Nutter:

We have some links on the screen which are also going to be placed into the chat box but will also be on a handout that we will link to at the end of this session that provide interpretation of the current administration’s interpretation of Title IX and the fact that schools are required to prevent and respond to discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Next slide, thank you.

Michelle Nutter:

And then, as I said, the real meat of the presentation, we had the two grounding presentations, but then the bulk of our presentation really was spent on talking with students, asking them questions, asking them what they need to thrive. And so the main takeaways you can see listed here on the screen, we spent a lot of time talking about using names and pronouns accurately, and what that might look like and how that process played out for our student panelists, things that were helpful and things that maybe not so helpful.

Michelle Nutter:

We also talked about how important it is that educators, whether it’s a classroom teacher or someone in the cafeteria or the principal, or any role, adults in schools, how important it is that we prevent and respond when harmful or hurtful language, bullying, harassment, cyber bullying, when that is taking place, how important it is for the staff in the building to stand up. The students talked about using non-gendered language in the classroom. And so getting away from those terms like, “Okay, boys and girls, it’s time to do this, that, or the other thing.” Or having kids compete against each other in an activity where it’s boys versus girls, really moving into non-binary, non-gendered language in the classroom.

Michelle Nutter:

They talked about how important it is to have inclusive policies with regard to bathrooms and locker rooms and participating on sports team, and what does your dress coat look like and what does… what are we doing with graduation gowns and what color of gown, or what attire can be worn under those gowns? The students talked about how important it was to identify safe people in the school that they could reach out to, to have conversations, to get support, to report concerns or complaints and making that process more visible so that students knew who their allies are and didn’t have to feel like, “Is it okay to talk to this person? Will I get a positive response or not?”

Michelle Nutter:

Every single student mentioned or went into great detail about how important having a GSA, a Gender Sexuality Alliance. A GSA in  school is a way that they were able to find their people and connect and feel safe and affirmed and supported in that group. And then the last point that the students made was how important it is that health and sex education curricula be LGBTQIA+ inclusive.

Marianna Stepniak:

Sorry, struggled to find that unmute button. Yes. And just to build briefly on what Michelle had just covered over those few slides there, the students laid the foundation for our conversation today. So those points that she had just identified in that last slide that students had brought up as, “Here’s what I need to feel safe in school,” our administrators today are going to talk about exactly those things.

Marianna Stepniak:

In fact, we identified administrators who could speak about different policies that they put into place that address one or more of those items on that list. So and just as a little sneak peek, we’re going to have another webinar with teachers and counselors on how they can create safe spaces for students for LGBTQIA+ students at school. So that’s just looking ahead a little bit. But coming back to today, our objectives for this conversation today are to identify and describe the actual steps to create LGBTQIA+ friendly school climate.

Marianna Stepniak:

We are also addressing how to navigate pushback from internal and external stakeholders, which administrators know is a key part of the job. And we are also here today to assess implementation and dissemination strategies for administrators to turn policies into sustainable practices. So our students told us, “Here’s what needs to be done.” Today we’re saying, “How do you do it?” So moving forward, before we start our conversation, we just want to set a couple of norms.

Marianna Stepniak:

We recognize that our audience today is diverse in its understandings, beliefs and opinions on gender identity and that some of the topics that we bring up might be difficult for some of the folks in our audience. These norms ask that you engage with our panelists today with respect, curiosity and a willingness to learn. So I’ll read them both out loud. Listen with respect as an ally, and to understand and embrace discomfort, seeking to learn and grow.

Marianna Stepniak:

If you feel uncomfortable today, that’s okay. That’s great. Change and growth requires feeling uncomfortable and pushing ourselves out of the comfort zone. We’re still glad that you are here to listen and learn from our presenters and panelists about what we can do to create and maintain positive, supportive school climate so trans and non-binary students can thrive. So last slide and then we’ll get started. So we’ve done our introductions of MAEC and what we’re doing today.

Marianna Stepniak:

We’re going to move into presentations. We’re going in alphabetical order by last name, starting with Seth then Kimbrelle, then Michael and then Barrett. And we’ll move into a round table discussion with our panelists, which will segue into audience Q&A. So again, if you have any questions throughout this webinar that you want to ask our panelists, please add them to the Q&A box, which you can click on your screen. All right. Now, over to you Michelle to introduce Seth.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you. So Seth Daub, our first panelist has been the principal of Orange County Public Schools Academic Center for Excellence, a pre-K to 8 school building in Orlando, Florida serving 1100 students since June of this year. Prior to this position, he was the principal of Catalina Elementary School since February 2016. Building ongoing and meaningful relationships across Central Florida has been at the forefront of Mr. Daub’s work and he continues to open doors for his students and the Catalina community.

Michelle Nutter:

Through Catalina’s award-winning community outreach initiative, Mr. Daub and his team visit the community on a quarterly basis, providing academic support to families and the community. Catalina’s arts enriched, hands-on [inaudible 00:17:36] has allowed students the opportunity to excel each day. Mr. Daub has demonstrated the impact of deliberate, respectful and appropriately phased turnaround leadership for underperforming schools.

Michelle Nutter:

Courageous to build trust with teachers and families, Mr. Daub has guided Catalina toward academic growth by implementing progressive changes with students’ best interests in mind. As a result, Catalina has improved performance on state assessments by 20 points in 2017 and a remarkable 63 points in 2018, moving Catalina from a double D rating to a C based on state guidelines. Mr. Daub is the immediate past president of the Florida Association of Administrators. During his presidential year, Mr. Daub was honored to be the first openly gay president in the organization’s history. Seth?

Seth Daub:

Thank you. I should know already how to unmute myself. Thank you all so much. I appreciate it. Like Michelle said, my name is Seth Daub and I am currently the principal of Orange County Public Schools Academic Center for Excellence here in sunny Orlando. I’m still thrilled to be here today and we’re going to talk a little bit about my journey of where I am, where I got to and kind of what we’re doing now in our schools. And I believe my slide will be shown in a minute. Ah, there we go. You can go to the next slide, that’d be great. Thank you.

Seth Daub:

So after attending our National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference a couple of weeks ago, I really did a lot of self-reflecting. And one of the questions that I asked myself, that’s me currently on the left, as a 44 year old, and the picture on the right is that my bar mitzvah as a 13 year old. And I really did a lot of self-reflecting on what would 44 year old Seth tell 13 year old Seth? 13 year old Seth was bullied in school, 13 year old Seth was trying to figure out who Seth was.

Seth Daub:

44 year old Seth stands very proud to be who he is, helping and being an advocate for equality and equity among students statewide and also across the nation. One thing I also… 44 year old Seth would tell 13 year old Seth that he would find out that his brother-in-law at the age of 42 years old is in the process of transitioning. He would also tell 13 year old Seth that it’s going to be okay. He also would tell 13 year old Seth that, like my shirt says, love is love and you as a 13 year old will realize that we have paved the way for children today and not just children, but people a society to be respected and loved.

Seth Daub:

So it’s been a journey, and our journey’s not over, but it’s been a great journey. All right, my next slide. So today I’m going to talk about meeting the needs of transgender students on the school campus. While I was at Catalina Elementary School, I was very fortunate to have two students who I’m going to talk about today who were going through the transitioning process. A little bit about Catalina Elementary School, it is a school that had about 700 students. I had just got moved, as Michelle said from Catalina to my new school after being at Catalina for five and a half years.

Seth Daub:

And in Orlando, in large school districts, they tend to move principals frequently depending on how good you are. So they moved me to a new school to be able to help support the community at the new school that I’m at. So being at Catalina for five and a half years, I really got to know the students, meet the students and really to be part of the community. So I’m going to talk about two students that I worked with at Catalina. You can go to my next slide.

Seth Daub:

So of course I’m not going to use the real names of the students. First, I’m going to talk about Sally. Sally attended Catalina Elementary School from kindergarten to third grade, and then Sally did not attend Catalina in fourth grade. Sally moved to Texas with Sally’s parents. Sally then came back to finish out Sally’s fifth grade year. During the week before school started, of course all of our boys and girls at Catalina knew Sally. Everyone knew who Sally was, kindergarten through third grade.

Seth Daub:

I was actually there all of Sally’s educational career, K through 3. When Sally moved, like I said, at fourth grade to Texas, the week before Sally came back to start his fifth grade year, mom met with me. Now Sally’s new name is Seth. And again, these names are not true names. So one thing that we had to do as a school community, first and foremost, I met with the parents. I met with Seth and I asked Seth what was his best name that we should call him, what were the pronouns that he would like to go by? And also what are some other logistical concerns that he has?

Seth Daub:

One of the main things was the bathrooms. Now we are very fortunate at the time being an elementary school where there were single bathrooms outside or inside each classroom. The only time we had to really address it was when Seth would use the bathrooms at lunch. But we came up with a plan. Then the next step was to meet with the staff, met with the staff, anyone who was involved that Seth would be involved with throughout the day is who I met with. But to make a better than that, I met with the entire staff, all 100 staff members, more or less, 100 staff members.

Seth Daub:

We met in a faculty meeting to talk about Seth. I was also very clear that Seth might look similar to a student we had previously, but Seth just moved here from Texas. And I wanted to make it very clear of my expectations that we treat Seth with respect, and we embrace Seth as we would any other child on our campus. Now, this was hard for some of our teachers and some of our staff members. And I had to be very clear that we will support staff and if there’s any issues, you will have to have one of those courageous conversations with me in my office being adults about situations.

Seth Daub:

Then after we set out our plan, we ensured a safe learning environment for our students. We made sure there was plans for restroom uses, plans for names and so forth. We also met with the district office to make sure because there was not a plan already put in place in our student management system. So the student management system, until Seth’s name was legally changed, it came up as Sally. So we put a plan in to have that altered and fixed, and they’re currently working on a system where that can be done.

Seth Daub:

Also we had to work with making sure that Seth, when he would have state assessments or any type of state assessments, that Seth would understand that his name is on the document as Sally because that comes from a state system. We also had to put in place plans for when we would have substitutes. And we would be very clear that you will not print your student roster list off of the mixed school management system. You will have another rockstar list when you do have a sub in place because we don’t want a substitute to see the name Sally because now Sally is going by Seth.

Seth Daub:

One thing that Orange County Public Schools does, we’re very fortunate that we do support all students, 100% and I’m very thankful that our district is very supportive of me as well. There were some issues where I did have to talk to some students on one-on-one in regards to bullying, but it was great to see our students in fifth grade really embrace Seth. And I think what really resonated with me, kids love other kids, and that’s really what it is.

Seth Daub:

Sometimes it’s more of the adults that are uncomfortable versus the students being uncomfortable. And I know I am almost up on time, so I’m going to not go to my next student that I’m going, I was going to talk about, but I just want to end on this. And I say this all day, every day, get to know someone who is different than you, and that will make this world such a better place. So thank you again, I’m looking forward to the question and answers a little bit later, and thank you all for what you do and thank you for being on here today.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you so much Seth, and we’re going to make sure to ask questions that get to that second student during the Q&A. So thank you very much. And we’re going to move over to Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis. So a school administrator for more than 16 years, Tennessee principal Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis recognizes the importance of leadership diversity in meeting student needs and supporting teachers and leaders. Because of this outlook, she has dedicated her career to her school community and to helping her peers in education.

Marianna Stepniak:

Barbosa Lewis has served in her latest leadership role as the president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, NAESP since August 1st, 2020. “As a principal and mother of three, my hope is in our children. The students of today are the world leaders of tomorrow. As educators, it is our role to get them there and for them to exceed far beyond what we have achieved,” says Barbosa Lewis, longtime principal of Cordova Elementary School in Tennessee.

Marianna Stepniak:

“As NAESP president, I will help principals work to equip teachers and other leaders to challenge students as they share in accountability for student learning, development and fulfillment. My goal is to be able to help all principals know how to analyze what is best for their students and be empowered to do it.” NAESP has created two task forces, the National Coronavirus Task Force and the National Task Force on Race and Equity to collaborate with principals nationwide to address these issues head on.

Marianna Stepniak:

Barbosa Lewis chairs the NAESP National Task Force on Race and Equity. A member of NAESP for 15 years, Barbosa Lewis has long been a volunteer leader with the association. She served as director at large minority level from 2015 through 2018 and chair of NAESP’s Diversity Task Force. Kimbrelle, over to you.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

Hi, and thank you so much, Marianna. I am just delighted to be here. Thank you for everyone who’s joined the webinar. It is also my honor to follow my good friend Seth. We have been friends for three years since I got to meet him at his school and we have had many rich conversations on this topic as we both continue to grow in how we support our students. I want to share a bit from the perspective of an elementary school principal of very young students. My school is a pre-K 5 school with students as young as three years old going and also students getting ready to be prepared for middle school.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

In the elementary school setting, I have found that there are many times that young children express being trans or non-binary differently than of course an older student or an adult will. It is so essential that as the adults in the building we understand what that may look like. It could be from the way that they changed the way they dress, the way that they express themselves, what they want to be called and also what we may have in years past considered them being curious.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

It’s important that our students, as young as they are, feel safe and feel that as adults, we are hearing them and that we know that this is a part of their narrative, a part of who they are and that is absolutely wonderful and acceptable and that we set the groundwork for that in our classrooms and within our schools. We can go onto the next slide. So building on that, those adult relationships help facilitate learning. It’s not our job to force any type of our own interpretation upon a young child’s narrative of who they are.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

One thing that is really important is that there are safety nets in place, not just in what the policies are of our district and our school, but in our everyday practice. There should be a relationship with allies in our space that allows for those students to know that the climate and culture of our school is very nurturing to the individual students and the students with many differences, including being non-binary and being trans. Engaging in dialogue with peers.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

As Seth mentioned, most of our students want to be very encouraging and supportive to their fellow cohort members, but there’s sometimes a lack of understanding, and that’s where we bring in our counselors and help with small group talks in classroom discussions about acceptance, differences, being respectful, respectful language and actions at all times, and also just seeking to understand and be understood. We can go to the next slide.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

One of the most important things is knowing… I know my state laws and policies and I’m from a state where there have been a couple of controversial ones that do not honor what is, we may consider, best for trans and non-binary students and those practices, those laws and policies have been challenged. I am very fortunate to work in a district that has followed many of the things that Seth spoke about in making recommendations when it comes to bathrooms, what students would like to be called accommodating name changes.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

As a school leader, it’s my job to set that vision and ensure that my teachers have the training and the relationship building with students in the community to implement that. Protecting our students’ rights is most important that they feel safe, that they are not harassed and that they are honored in their choices and also in their beliefs. One thing that I think is also key, especially me living in the South is that it is not about anyone’s personal or religious beliefs, but about student support, and that sometimes clouds judgment and especially here in the South.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

It is my job to ensure a safe, welcoming and loving environment where a student can grow socially, emotionally, and academically and if there’s threat of not being understood or being harassed, they can’t take place. And so it makes a difference how the principal sets that tone and implements that vision. Also one key thing, the students’ wishes and even with young students outweighs their parents’ beliefs. So those students have the right.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

As Seth mentioned, if Sally wants to now be called Seth, it’s up to the student to say… it is up to us to honor what the student has said. Parents also grapple with these decisions, and we want to support the parents as they work through the decisions that their children are making with support from our school and our community. Last slide. And this is the greatest part of this for me.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

I have worked with students for many years. I started as an administrator back in 2005, and I still have relationships with many of my students who are now adults. I know you don’t believe that when you look at… who are now adults. And my oldest child was also one of my students when I was an elementary assistant principal, and I formed a great relationships with many of his peers and continue to have relationships as they continue to be friends.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

It’s important to remember that the groundwork we do in elementary school affects those students for life. Many of the students in my son’s community are trans and non-binary. And I want them to always know that the principal that I was for them 15 years ago is the principal I am for them now and that I am an ally and space around me is safe.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

At the bottom, this is just a quote that I recently saw from one of my students on… he posted on Facebook, that it’s important that I am there for them in the future as now young adults, middle school, high school, and young adult students, that they know that the groundwork and the relationships that we built in their elementary school time has allowed them to be and express who they are as young adults and then as adults. That safe space is so important to start at the elementary school level. Thank you.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Kimbrelle. Oh, so much there to unpack. I can’t wait for our Q&A where we can really dig in. But thank you so much for that reminder that it’s not about personal beliefs, it’s all about the students and helping them feel safe, affirmed, and able to succeed. So we’re going to go ahead and turn to our next presenter, Michael Roth. And let me just give you his bio. So Michael is proud to serve as the superintendent of Upper Moreland Township School District in Eastern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Michelle Nutter:

Prior to his current role, Michael was the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in the Southern Lee High School District where he led the team in developing a robust, strategic planning process and efforts in identifying and aligning social and emotional learning efforts K-12. Outside of public education, Michael has served as vice-president of professional services for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and director of professional development for discovery education.

Michelle Nutter:

He has also worked in numerous school districts, Chicago Public Schools, School District of Philadelphia, Santa Rosa County Schools, Wake County Public Schools, Jersey City Public Schools, Asbury Park School District, Norfolk Public Schools, and Norwalk Public Schools. Michael has also proudly served as the superintendent of the Salisbury Township School District and as a teacher, middle school principal, director of curriculum, an assistant superintendent in the Nazareth Area School District.

Michelle Nutter:

In 2019, Michael was recognized with the Service to the Profession Award by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Michael received his bachelor’s in history with a minor in management from Moravian College, along with his secondary social studies certification, his master’s degree and principal’s certification from Wilkes University, has Pennsylvania’s superintendent’s letter of eligibility from Lehigh University and an EDD in educational and organizational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.

Michelle Nutter:

In addition to teaching and providing program design assistance for Moravian College and Delaware Valley University graduate education programs, Michael has also consulted with Dr. Derrick Gay to support his transformational work on diversity, equity and inclusion. Michael?

Michael Roth:

Thank you so much, Michelle. Thank you, Marianna. It’s great to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to speak today about some of the ways that we have worked to support transgender students in the Upper Moreland Township School District. Next slide please. A little bit about Upper Moreland. So Upper Moreland is 3,200 students served in three buildings. We are one township but is approximately 9 1/2 square miles, which makes us very concentrated. As Michelle said, we’re located in Eastern Montgomery County which makes us one of those collar counties of the city and county of Philadelphia.

Michael Roth:

In terms of our breakdown, you can see that on the screen both from our economically disadvantaged, special education, ELL are Asian, black, native and Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic, white or two or more races. So we are a diverse community and continue to change and flex and thrive because of our location and because of the fact that many people are interested in being a part of the Upper Moreland community.

Michael Roth:

Next slide please. So I’ve been with the district since August of last year. And in terms of coming in and being on board and as part of my transition and entry plan, I was asking a lot of questions. And of course, this was one of the questions that I had, which was, what has the district done to support transgender students? And so the district already had a process in place in which they had a procedure for changing name, pronoun usage, and gender both from a process and also in school settings and also from an official school records perspective.

Michael Roth:

As Kimbrelle was presenting, I really appreciated the fact that she highlighted the idea or concept about vision. And that fits right in because on the documentation that we have for this process, we have that purpose very clearly stated, and I found that that is very helpful in terms of providing that clarity and also creating that rationale or that big why as to why we do this.

Michael Roth:

Because we really do want to create these environments for our students and we want learning and all that happens for students to be joyful, triumphant and transformative, especially for our students who are transgender. So when we talk about how we support our transgender students with name change and pronoun usage and so forth, there’s two separate but related processes very similar to what Seth indicated is happening in his school. So we had that idea for process, right?

Michael Roth:

So when you’re in your school setting, as a child, as a student, as you are coming to identify yourself in terms of your gender and so forth, and you are looking to make that change, we have it set up that there’s a plan and a way that students can advocate or parents can advocate and come to staff members to say that they would like this process to start happening in which supports around name changes within certain parts of our systems are added in the use of pronouns within the system can start happening.

Michael Roth:

And then looking at, as Seth mentioned, many of those activities or even from those areas that our students identified from the previous webinar about restroom usage, about participation in activities and so forth, they can advocate for themselves and have the pathways to have that happen within the school setting. We also have then a process for the change in terms of official school records.

Michael Roth:

So if the change wants to be memorialized within our systems, so as both Kimbrelle and Seth indicated around at state systems and identifications of both gender and name, we do have a process to do that to have that official name change done. Now, as we realize, sometimes this is where there’s a little bit of friction or tension, especially when a family is either not aware or not supportive of the identification that the student is making, and therefore that becomes a point for us where we try to then make sure that we emphasize what we can do within the school setting, even though we may not be able to make those official changes within the school records.

Michael Roth:

So next slide, please. So when we reflect upon our process, and I think this is important because both Seth and Kimbrelle mentioned this is I think there are some things that we have done well as in the past and in the current practices around this. So we have our process broken down specifically as to what the students have the right to, what are the student responsibilities and what are the counselor and administrator responsibilities for helping not only the students, but also our staff when students are transitioning through this process.

Michael Roth:

We also have that clarity of the process and this recognition of that tension between the practices and legal requirements. So in the case where a child may be transitioning and again has not come out yet or has not communicated or have the support from family, we do work to try to ensure that the child feels comfortable in school, that we are using the appropriate names and pronouns and so forth but that we also realize that there may be times where when the interaction with the families may… Again, we try very hard to make sure that that doesn’t reveal or become something that’s counterproductive to the child, but we still recognize that that’s a tension that exists.

Michael Roth:

What we still have to learn and work on is right now, our process is really about transitioning from male to female or female to male. And we need to look at how we can add that gender fluidity and non-binary identity to the process and procedure as well, and how we respect that in terms of both the process within school settings, and also with the name change within our official settings. And then also creating those opportunities for expression and understanding of gender identification within our standard practices.

Michael Roth:

So how we changed some of those things that have become kind of habit for us, like our students have mentioned boys and girls, references like that, how we can continue to work with our staff to make those changes within classrooms. Next slide please. So how will we continue to do this and how will we continue to grow and learn? We want to really maintain and further develop an environment in which students can self-advocate. And I think that Kimbrelle really hit this well. That’s really what we want to be able to do.

Michael Roth:

We want to say that this is truly about the students and that it’s student focused, and that we want them to have that opportunity to advocate and to have the pathways. And as long as we keep working to create that environment, we feel that we will continue to learn and be supportive of students within our environment. So the clarity of the rights, responsibilities, and actions within the transgender name, pronoun process, we want to continue to support for student run diversity clubs and our GSA to elevate voice and student driven action.

Michael Roth:

For example, we had a lot of questions about how we were going to recognize pride month this year and we really relied upon our students, both some individual students in our groups to indicate how they wanted us as a district to recognize or how we could help to support their efforts to recognize pride month as something that was supportive to them. We also want to further develop our processes that engage students and families to understand what needs to be changed and adjusted.

Michael Roth:

So we have a DEI task force that is currently in place and looking at diversity, equity and inclusion from all lenses and across all our students. So that work will help us to inform both policy decisions and our comprehensive planning process. And also really throughout all of our efforts as both Seth and Kimbrelle highlighted, we really want to be listening to our students and validate their experiences.

Michael Roth:

So it’s not about the experiences of the adults, it’s really about the experiences of the students and how we can support the students and help the adults to support the students within their experiences. So that’s a little bit of what we’ve been doing to support transgender students in the Upper Moreland Township School District. Thank you.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thanks so much, Michael. I love hearing the themes that are coming out between each of you and I know we’re going to dig a lot deeper during our Q&A as well. So last but not least of our presenters, we have Barrett Wilkinson. So Barrett has spent their career working in the fields of violence prevention and conflict resolution with schools and youth throughout the US and across the pond to Northern Ireland.

Marianna Stepniak:

Having worked for the Center for Preventing Hate, Seeds of Peace, the City of Portland, and currently as the director of diversity, equity, inclusion for Portland Public Schools, Barrett’s areas of expertise include prevention, education, equity, and social, emotional development. They hold a master’s in public policy and management. Barrett, over to you.

Barrett Wilkinson:

Thanks and hi everyone. And it’s a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I’m really pleased to get to be a part of this, thanks to MAEC and the Center for Education Equity. We’ve had the pleasure of working with CEE since 2018. And thanks to the other panelists, I learned a lot waiting and listening and trying to think about what I was going to say. But what I am going to talk about is just a little bit about our policy around transgender and gender expansive students.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And I would first give a shout out to our superintendent and our board of education because they really led this work to create the policy. And just if you haven’t heard of Portland, Maine, let me be the first to tell you, it’s a wonderful place. We are the largest school district in Maine, but compared to where a lot of you are from, that probably is a little off balance. We’re probably a medium sized district. In other scope of things, we’re a very diverse district. And yeah, so next slide and I’ll tell you a little bit more about this policy.

Barrett Wilkinson:

So our transgender and gender expansive students’ policy was created after a year of work, engaging stakeholders from throughout the community and it was in response to the change during the last presidential administration in federal guidance around supporting trans and gender expansive students. And so our board and school leaders, really system leaders really said we need to bring clarity to this because this matters for all kinds of reasons.

Barrett Wilkinson:

So they took a year to do that. They met with partner organizations like EqualityMaine and GLSEN legal experts, they met with students to get their insight and the policy passed in late 2017 with full support of the board of education. So I actually started the week before that passed. So this was the first board meeting I was attending. And it was remarkable because every single member who was president of the board of education didn’t just vote in favor of the policy, but went on record as to why and to kind of share their support. So that felt really… just felt really important to us.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And part of the policy and interestingly, a part that students really emphasize in their feedback is that all staff are trained on the policy. So everyone was made aware of it. And of course everyone’s supposed to know about all policies and this is one that we spend time on. So initially we made sure throughout the district there was training to all schools so all staff understood the new policy that had been passed. And now it’s incorporated as part of new staff orientation.

Barrett Wilkinson:

So anyone who joins the district knows at least a little bit about the policy. And so as I’m talking, if you feel like it, you can look at our policy, I’m putting that in the chat. And I can have the next slide. The next couple slides that I’m using with you come from the presentation that I use to make sure all staff have orientation to it. And a lot of that is just saying like, why this matters is because this is creating what we want which is a welcoming and safe environment for all students.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And it’s also about the reality that by doing this, we can affirm who students are and we can reduce the risks that face trans and gender expansive youth because young people who identify as trans and gender expansive are facing greater risk and scrutiny on. This is a picture of one of the students who helped inform the policy and myself at Portland Pride a couple of years ago. The student has now graduated, gone on, but I wanted to bring at least some edge in my presentation.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And of course policy alone doesn’t solve problems, but it does communicate priorities. And so that… another reason why it’s really essential. Next slide. So some of the key elements of our policy is that we accept students’ assertion of their gender identity, and we use the name and pronoun that they identify with. We want to really ensure confidentiality of student information as it relates to their gender identity. Some students are very comfortable sharing I identify as gender queer or I’m gender fluid or I’m transgender.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And some are very private about that. And so we want to really reflect that and follow their lead and how they want to be identified. But generally speaking, if as adults in the system, we have information about a student’s gender identity, we should consider that highly confidential as we would other data we might have access to. And there are certainly instances where a principal in a school might know that a student has joined from another district or another place who identifies as transgender.

Barrett Wilkinson:

They may be the only person in the entire school that has that information so we want to be really thoughtful about that. The policy also helps outline that gender segregated activities should be minimized and that anything that relates to dress codes, bathrooms, locker rooms corresponds to asserted gender. So we go with who students say they are. And if a student prefers to use a gender neutral bathroom, we would make that accommodation but in general, it corresponds to what they have asserted is their identity.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And then we really want people to be aware of the risks that face trans and gender expansive students, we have other policy that really guides harassment discrimination, and so this policy is deeply connected to that. But we really do want to be made aware of things that are happening for students. And so the policy, most policy is really big but so I call out these key points to really help people understand like, “Okay, this is what this is really about.” And you can go to the next slide.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And this again is from that presentation. So we have an internal document for folks that helps them with some of the additional resources locally that they could be pointed to as well as some internal resources. So we asked them to review the handout, they’re provided with the policy. And we also say like, “If you have questions, that’s why I’m here in this position where you can reach out to me. I can help solve some of the gray area issues that may come up to support trans students.” We also have GSTAs, Gay, Straight, Trans Alliances in all of our high schools and middle schools.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And so those advisors, and sometimes those students are great people to reach out to. We really challenge folks as other presenters have talked about to use gender inclusive language, really get away from the like, “Let’s go boys and girls,” to like, “Good morning learners,” and things like that. We really encourage people to ask about and respond to the assertions of student names and pronouns. A lot of times adults get hung up on if we knew someone as one pronoun and name and we make mistakes, we kind of can make that super awkward.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And we really don’t want to put the burden on students to have to continue explaining. We really want to challenge ourselves to be like, “You know what? I can get this right. This person told me what their name is and their pronoun and I’m going to work on that and make sure I get it right next time.” We certainly want people to apologize and identify when they’ve made the mistake with students because that builds trust and acknowledgement and then move forward. And again, just to be really conscious of when issues are coming up and reporting those.

Barrett Wilkinson:

We certainly have more work to do. So just because we have the policy and we have some of the things in place does not mean we have it all figured out by any stretch. So some of the big work we have coming up is really to increase student awareness of the policy so that students really understand that this is an option and how to go about accessing name change so that it’s reflected in Google Docs and things like that.

Barrett Wilkinson:

We need to also really deepen staff understanding, not just about trans and gender expansive identities, but LGBTQ identities overall, and that is actually one of our key priorities in terms of some of the equity literacy work we’re doing in our district in the coming year. So I will leave it at that. I’m sure I’m at time and pleasure to get to spend some time with you all.

Michelle Nutter:

Barrett, thank you so much for your presentation and thank you for that reminder around the fact that it took a year to put this policy in place, that if we’re doing this work, we need to be very thoughtful and deliberate. And especially you talking about engaging external stakeholders, GLSEN, and organizations like that to have that expert voice, but even more importantly, that you engaged your parents and your students, your students especially in what should this policy look like. So a thank you to all four of our presenters. That was just fabulous.

Michelle Nutter:

We’re going to go ahead and move into our panel round table. So I ask our panelists to turn their cameras on. And we have some prepared questions. There were some questions that were submitted by folks in the registration process, and we’re also going to be taking questions that have appeared either in the chat or the Q&A box. And so attendees, if you have thought of any questions and you haven’t typed them in, please go ahead and use that Q&A box to type in your question.

Michelle Nutter:

So the first question I’m going to ask our panelists is, how do you navigate pushback in your school communities so that all students feel safe and affirmed? And panelists, go ahead and raise your hand if you’d like to respond to that question. How do you manage the pushback? Michael?

Michael Roth:

I’ll start. So from a district perspective, I think it goes back to something I stressed in the presentation that built off of something that both Seth and Kimbrelle highlighted and of course, Barrett brought forward as well. We have to keep it student focused. So it is about the individual students and it’s about what they’re experiencing, their experience and their needs. So when people pose questions or people push back or say, “We shouldn’t be doing this,” we have to keep coming back to that idea of we’re doing this for those particular students.

Michael Roth:

Now that doesn’t make it still… it’s still difficult, right? It’s still difficult to sometimes enter into those conversations, it’s still sometimes painful because it can bring up a lot of emotions. And I like to call it that friction and abrasion and things that often happen that way. But for me, it’s just keeping to center on student needs.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Michael. Seth, and then Barrett.

Seth Daub:

I would definitely agree with what Michael said based on the student needs, but also it’s building relationships and that trust in your families and letting them know that we’re here to really protect and care for all students.

Barrett Wilkinson:

All of that what Seth and Michael both said, but also one thing we did that I think is helpful just to share about the policy as we made it part our parent university, which is a way that we do all kinds of different activities with parents, but some kind of community forum to say like… to learn about trans and gender expansive identities. And we had a great panel. We had a parent of a trans student, we had trans students and we had community resources. And I really just got to moderate their conversation and that was really helpful for just kind of like sharing with the community and that’s recorded. And part of our parent university kind of video collection.

Marianna Stepniak:

That’s awesome. I’m going to stick with the theme of something that I feel like is a subtext here, but isn’t quite as directly built into that previous question, which is how do you navigate a situation where a student comes out at school, but isn’t out at home? So thinking about this point that you’ve all brought up, which is you need to keep the student centered. What if you’re receiving pushback from their families? How do you navigate that situation when your student is out at school, but not at home? Barrett, I saw your hand.

Barrett Wilkinson:

I mean, I think Kimbrelle said this. The student is our number one, kind of they’re the priority and their being able to access their education is our responsibility. That said, and the policy supports that in our system, but that said, what I’ve seen happen is just amazing transformation where the schools do what schools do, which is partner with families and build collaboration and help caregivers and parents understand another dimension of their student. And I’ve seen just tremendous evolution occur because of that. And that is with credit to school leaders and administrators and teachers because they’re the ones doing that work in real time all the time about all kinds of things, including this.

Marianna Stepniak:

I love that word too, which I think Michael leads in their presentation as well, transformation. I love that. And Kimbrelle, I saw your hand.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

I think Barrett said it perfectly. Again, I have very young students at my school that I’ve seen where parents who start out with one particular perspective have embraced their children and our students and they’re who they are and how they want to have that information shared, how they want to have it recognized at home and at school. And I have grown from that and from those discussions, and I think what’s important is exactly what Barrett shared, is that it’s student-centered, it’s based on how that student would like to be addressed, how that student would like information to be even discussed with their parents.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

And with very young children, parents are used to being their child’s advocate, but that can also go both ways where the school is engaged in helping that discussion move along. And I’ve seen where I’ve had some parents who have been just the most stern parents in their approach to upbringing who will come to us just for an opportunity to engage in a conversation on how we’re going to do this in a way that best supports my child remaining in a positive environment, that supports my child as my child makes this transition.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Kimbrelle. I just… all the reminders to keep bringing it back to student centered is so valuable. Nikevia, do you have a question for us either pre-submitted or one from the chat?

Nikevia Thomas:

Yes. Hello. There was a slight delay. So yes, I have a question for you. What approach do you start with in getting staff buy-in and actions on the best practices in a non-diverse community?

Marianna Stepniak:

Kimbrelle?

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

So I think it starts with informing our staff. We have seen the numbers of how young people and young adults who are trans are treated, often harassed, mistreated, how suicide rates come into part, how rates have been harmed come into part of this discussion. And so I think it starts with knowing that, being fully informed. And then even though we may not be in a very diverse community, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact our community. So I think it starts with knowing how it impacts of course the community in general, within our school community while also understanding keeping confidentiality of students.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

But it’s also important that they understand that this is something that is a part of our school, it is a part of our community. It is something that we are responsible to help keep others informed and to ensure again, that it’s really about what our students need and supporting them. So I think that’s how you start and you start with a conversation about what is our reality, what is really, truly impacting our students in our community and how can we as a school begin to support our students in this area.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Kimbrelle. Michael, I saw you raised your hand as well.

Michael Roth:

So to build off of that slightly, I think it’s also about having and creating the opportunities for our own staff members to understand the concept of identity. So working with and having those conversations and getting to realize that we are all more than sometimes what we outwardly appear to be helps to just start to break down those walls. Even within a, I’m going to say an organization or a community or a group, which may visually not be diverse. There is diversity, right? In terms of identity, in terms of background and in terms of experiences. And for me, I’ve seen that become the entry, the on-ramp onto this highway of having that further and deeper conversation.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you, Michael. Let’s turn a little different direction, but have you all engaged in an audit of your libraries and your curriculum looking for inclusivity so that LGBTQIA+ students can see themselves and feel validated? So if you have done that audit, what did that process look like for you? Seth?

Seth Daub:

So I will tell you being embarrassed to say this, we have not done an audit, but I’m putting it on my to-do list because I think that’s very important to do. So I’m going to be the first to tell you, we have not done one, but we’re going to do one and we’re going to purchase more books for our students. So thank you for that.

Michelle Nutter:

Thank you. Barrett.

Barrett Wilkinson:

I would just say we’re engaging in that now so I can’t quite say what the result is. That said, individual teachers have done a lot of classroom library audits, like what books they have around for all kinds of different diversity and kind of like looking at like, “Who is represented here and what do students have access to?” And one of our library coordinators and I are working on, really she’s working on it, is an audit of the collection overall at each school, and so more to come on that. And then I would say as far as curriculum goes, that is also a big next step for us this coming year. We are focusing on really a revision and alignment around our health content curriculum and inclusion of LGBTQ identities and health is central in that as well.

Michelle Nutter:

Excellent. Thank you. And Michael?

Michael Roth:

So we have not done an official audit either, but very similarly to what Barrett and Seth indicated, we do have individual teachers and administrators that are constantly keeping their eyes opening and asking questions and looking at things. One thing that did happen on this past year that I was extremely proud of, and again comes back to this idea of student focused and driven, our diversity club at our middle school held a book drive where they identified titles that they would like to see added to the collection in our library. And then, so again, the students came out and said, “This is what we would like to see to be added.” And again, from that lens of inclusiveness for everyone. So I’m really proud again, of our students and the work of our staff in terms of supporting those types of efforts.

Marianna Stepniak:

I love that, and bringing it right back to the students, putting it in their hands. So I’m going to bring in a question from the chat along with the question that we had already prepared, and this has to do with professional development. So what professional development opportunities have you offered for your staff to learn how to best support LGBTQIA+ students. And more specifically, the question in the chat, what professional development would you recommend to be prepared to have these conversations and support students? So this is a question professional development for leaders and staff in order to support LGBTQIA+ students and have conversations with community members, it sounds like. Seth.

Seth Daub:

So at our district level, the district does a great job at bringing in Equality Florida to talk with principals and assistant principals. As far as teachers, unfortunately, there’s not at this time a lot of PD which I think is really important and really much needed. But I know something that we do at our school is we do a book study, we do two every year. The first one is that we’re planning on for the fall is Conversations About Race, that’s one of the books.

Seth Daub:

And then the other one in the spring, I usually take a temperature of the staff and I decided I’m going to try to go and kind of help guide the staff with a more book based on equality for the LGBTQ+ student awareness. So that’s what we do here at our school.

Marianna Stepniak:

That’s great.

Seth Daub:

And if anyone knows a good book, please let me know so I can add that to my library.

Marianna Stepniak:

And I see that question in the Q&A as well, a list of some great books that address these topics. All right. Nikevia, can you bring in a question from the audience please?

Nikevia Thomas:

Sure. So here’s a question. Can you share some specific plans you put in place with regard to supporting transitioning students, bathroom plans or plans for pronouns or how you’ve managed any difficulties that might’ve come up with these situations, i.e staff, students, not recognizing person pronouns and are struggling to understand?

Marianna Stepniak:

Kimbrelle? You are muted, Kimbrelle.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

One example that happened that we’ve worked with in our school recently, and it may sound pretty simplistic, but from a fourth grader’s perspective, it was really big and it was something that we work with the student and the parent. The student has not identified specifically as trans or non-binary, but the student wanted to begin transitioning in the way that the student dressed.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

So of course we have uniform policies, but specifically the student wanted to begin carrying a purse when the student had previously identified as male and did not previously introduce it into what he wore every day. So it started with the parent, the student and our team, our leadership team getting together with his parent wanting to meet, and then there were conversations specifically with teachers. And this had not been… this was new. This was absolutely new for us with a young student.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

What we were surprised to see was that the most accepting part and the most understanding part was working with other students. It was a situation where students were very clear in their acceptance and how they were not going to make it something that stood out or that they thought was a change that needed to be discussed in a negative way, it was very positive. And so it opened the door for more conversation with staff.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

We are anticipating this year of just continuing to work with the student as the student makes the decisions about how the student would like to be addressed gender wise and pronouns. And we’re just moving forward with talking with him. He still identifies as him at this point and what the next steps will be like. It’s completely in his hands and in our plans to support him in how that happens.

Marianna Stepniak:

And Barrett.

Barrett Wilkinson:

I would say that the student really drives what is right for them. The policy helps guide that in that we want to be responsive, but for some students it’s, “No, I just want my teacher to know and to use the same in the classroom,” and that’s where they’re at, and that’s fine. For some students, it’s really clear that they want kind of system-wide whoever interacts with them to refer to them as a new name and pronoun. And so I think it’s really about what’s right for them and us doing the work to make sure we support them in that path.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And also particularly for the case, I saw some questions about this and we talked about it a little and I just forgot to say when it comes to, particularly for adolescents who may not have support at home, definitely having a safety conversation about what’s going to be the most supportive of them. And obviously we want to engage with their caregivers and figure out what is the right… how is the right way for us to do that. But that’s for them to help define and not for… You know what I mean? So that just takes time. And again, it’s learning from the student about what their reality is and making sure we support them or not.

Marianna Stepniak:

Identifying what works best for them as a person, right? All right. We are in the last 12 minutes of this webinar, so I’m going to ask the last question. I know there are more questions and we invited the panelists to answer the questions in the chat as they’re able, but we’ll keep answering later too. So our final question, which we’ll ask all the panelists to answer is actually the same question that we asked to our student panelists at the end of our previous webinar.

Marianna Stepniak:

And so this question is, imagine that it’s the year 2050, we’re in a new world. What does it look like or feel like to be in a school where every trans and non-binary student feel safe, valued, respected, and welcomed? What needs to change so that the future can exist? And again, we’re going to ask each of you to respond to this question. This is the last question for today. And actually I’ll plug in the chat while you’re thinking of your answers, a link to the Q&A to the student panelists, which ends with this question as well. So you all can that answer too, if you want. All right, Michael, starting with you.

Michael Roth:

So I’m going to start from a systems perspective, from a district level perspective. So I believe that if it’s 2050, what has happened is that organizations and districts and schools have changed in such a way that there are less… and hang with me here, they’re less structured and rigid and more of a perspective of being learning organizations so that the schools are seen not as the places that have all of the answers, but help to generate the responses and generate the answers to questions, right?

Michael Roth:

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot and we are all products of our systems as we’ve been brought up, right? I was brought up in a system where the teacher said, “Welcome to school boys and girls,” right? And so that’s just been kind of reinforced over and over and over into my paradigm into who I am. And in order to shift that, I have to be pushed, I have to be challenged, and I have to think differently about it to come up with different perspectives.

Michael Roth:

And we had a principal… I worked with a principal who referred to all students as friends. So it wasn’t, “Well, welcome boys and girls,” it was, “Welcome friends,” which I thought was a very nice way to help to change that perspective. So I know that may be a little idealistic, but that’s what we want to be when we’re involved in education, but breaking down some of those structures and developing the systems to be more from a learning responsive stance.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you, Michael. I really loved the overview image there. Kimbrelle.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

Just to add a little bit to what Michael said. When you think about schools, a lot of our data comes in by subgroups and some of those sub groups include gender. And our whole approach would have to change, our approach to how we look at data, how we look at, of course, gender, how we greet, how we think about uniforms with our uniform policies and that the environment is much more welcoming to diversity. And many of us in the past have thought of diversity just as including race and culture, and that has to change including for myself and we have to expand our knowledge.

Kimbrelle Barbosa Lewis:

And I’m so glad that Seth mentioned resources. The wealth of resources that would be available within the schools and the community would be tremendous in 2050, and that our students would help to lead these discussions and continue to help lead the change and that those voices are heard and recognized and young students and students of all ages. And so I look forward to a time to where it is much more… there’s much more communication, much more transparency in the way we have those discussions and in who leads the discussions and what our schools look like whether it, as Michael mentioned, they look diverse or not. We know that they are, and that that can be embraced much more.

Marianna Stepniak:

Absolutely. And we would be remiss if we didn’t bring the word and the concept of intersectionality into this conversation too. Seth, I see your hand up.

Seth Daub:

So what I think that needs to change what in 2050, I think we’re heading into a good place because I think in the year 2050, the young ones now that they’re young, there’s so much more accepting and that makes me very excited about 2050. I’ll be old by then. I’ll be hopefully definitely retired. And that’s what I’m excited about because I think in 2021, my personal opinion, I think it’s the adults that are the ones that are in the awkward stages and not understanding and some not willing to understand.

Seth Daub:

But I think in 2050, I’m excited because I think by that point, I think it’s happened before then, but everyone is just going to hopefully blow everyone. And I’m a… I like to look on the bright side of things and I’m just excited that, like I said, I think it’s more the adults now than the kids and I think the kids are just going to continue to love who they love and be who they are and embrace. And I’m excited for that for the educational purpose.

Seth Daub:

And I’m also excited that in 2050 people can be who they are and not lose jobs and what the case is or what have yous in their careers. So I’m hoping to have more openly members of the LGBTQ+ communities as principals and district leaders in 2050 which will just even help the next generation coming up.

Marianna Stepniak:

When the kids become the adults, that would be great. Barrett.

Barrett Wilkinson:

I completely agree Seth. I feel like a lot of young people now are like, “Ah, gender? What?” They just don’t need to have the conversation in the same way which is really wonderful. So as usual, we have plenty to learn from them directly. So I would say that what I would like to see at that time is it’s not just for students, but for the adults in the system too, because we have trans folks who are educators and working in the system and that both students and adults feel like they are valued and celebrated for their multiple and intersectional identities.

Barrett Wilkinson:

And that’s work we’ve got to be doing now to build that. And then the other thing that came to mind that first thing along with that that popped into my mind was just that our curriculum, like the what that we actually teach has to reflect the stories and experiences of LGBTQ people, which has been largely buried. As people… as many other groups who’ve experienced marginalization, history is often one dimensional. And so that’s, again, work we have to do now because it takes a long time to move that. So that’s the other thing that came to mind for me too.

Michelle Nutter:

Oh, a huge, huge, thank you to our panelists, Barrett, Seth, Michael, and Kimbrelle. This has just been such a deep and rich conversation. And I just want to thank you all on behalf of MAEC and the Center for Education Equity for sharing your thoughts and your work in this area. And we look forward to continuing this conversation with you. I know that there were a lot of unanswered questions, but we will be working to get answers to those questions that have been posted and get them out to everyone.

Michelle Nutter:

I want to thank all of our attendees for tuning in today and learning and growing with us. And especially thank you to Nikevia and Kathleen for helping us with the tech during this session. Everyone who was present today will receive a link to the webinar recording, the slides, the transcript, the resources and you’ll also get information about the third webinar in this series where we have a conversation with teachers and counselors.

Michelle Nutter:

The date has not been set. We’re looking towards middle, late August for that one, but you’ll get information on it. And as you see the QR code on the screen, please, if you don’t mind, take some time to provide us with your feedback. We always want to do the absolute best that we can. And so any suggestions for improvement or topics that you’d like to hear more about, please let us know. And thank you each and every one of you for attending and again, to our panelists, thank you so much.

Marianna Stepniak:

Thank you everyone, have a great day.

Michelle Nutter:

Bye-bye.

 

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