Recently, the Superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District, my employer, sent out a memo affirming the School Board’s support for transgender students. This was a reaction from President Trump rescinding protections for them, and not allowing them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. The memo confirmed that the school district’s position is to continue the present practices of supporting these students and their families.
Since I write about gifted on this web site, I want to point out that I have observed that transgender and gifted have something in common. It has been my experience over the years that a large percentage of transgender and gender fluid students at my high school are also gifted students. They have unique social and emotional needs.
I am proud to work in a district and in a high school that understands that we need to support students for what they bring to the learning environment, and not have it be regulated by the sex on their birth certificate. ALL students have the right to a safe learning environment while they are in our school.
The BVSD Superintendent’s letter is below followed by my supportive reply of gratitude.
Dear BVSD Parents, Guardians and Staff
On Wednesday, February 22, President Trump rescinded protections for transgender students allowing them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity; it is a retraction of guidance provided by President Obama last summer.
Boulder Valley School District will maintain our present practice supporting transgender students and their families as we have in the past. Our position is consistent with the district’s equity values and our district mission and vision. Our guidelines supporting students and staff who are transgender may be found in the Policies section of the district website at bvsd.org/policies/Policies/AC-E3.pdf.
We appreciate that Colorado state law also forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public places — including schools. Colorado Chalkbeat published an informative article about this on Wednesday.
BVSD remains committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students.
Dr. Bruce K. Messinger
Hello Dr. Messinger,
I want to thank BVSD for upholding principles and reason and maintaining BVSD’s present practice of supporting transgender students and families.
As the TAG Advisor at Fairview High School for the past eleven years, I have become close to many of our transgender students. Many transgender students are also identified as gifted. I’m not sure of the correlation, if any, but it does seem rather high. I’ve had the privilege of becoming a trusted adult to many of them as they try to understand themselves and fit into the school system and into the world in general.
Regarding allowing them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, I feel it is a practice that helps preserve their dignity. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, much less to stand out in a way that’s often not accepted. Most teens simply want support in being who they are.
One of Fairview’s graduated transgender students, while a student at CU Boulder, committed suicide recently. This student was incredibly talented, loving, sensitive, and kind. Their needs were unconditionally accommodated both at Fairview and at CU. However, their family situation was extremely contentious. There’s only so much schools can do to overcome the feeling a student has of being raised feeling like they’ve shamed and disappointed their family. I will always be proud of Fairview and CU for accepting, accommodating, and supporting this incredible person. I know that as communities that accept gender diversity, Fairview and CU provided this student with solace, understanding, and some happiness. The sadness and senselessness of their death was a huge loss for so many of us.
Dr. Messigner, thank you for understanding the bigger picture. Our students are trying to figure themselves out, and understand others as they go through life and, at the same time, so many of our students are reeling from political uncertainties in our world. Add to this the fact that we are responsible for giving young people a quality education.
People don’t thrive cognitively unless their affective (social and emotional) needs are being met. I can think of nothing more important than for BVSD to continue to provide a place that maintains practices that preserve our students’ dignity as humans for the short amount of time that they are in our charge. Only then can they be in a mindset that is open to what we are providing them in the classroom.
Terry Bradley, MA
Gifted & Talented Advisor
Fairview High School