PITTSFIELD — No matter their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, all children should feel safe and welcomed in the Pittsfield Public Schools.
The School Committee on Wednesday night put that philosophy in writing by adopting a policy supporting gender-diverse and transgender students enrolled throughout the district.
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said the committee's newest directive falls in line with what dozens of school systems have adopted across the commonwealth.
"We want to embrace all kids to feel comfortable in school. We want young people to feel free who they want to be," he said after the meeting.
According to the five-page document, the policy covers all 12 school buildings, school-sponsored functions and activities, city school buses or vehicles and at bus stops.
Students have the right to keep their transgender status private and the district has an obligation to keep confidential in a student's file his/her legal name or gender assigned at birth.
The policy goes on to state that students have the right to be addressed by the name that matches their gender identity.
As for the sensitive issue regarding restrooms and locker rooms, the policy states that such accommodations "allow all students equal access to facilities that are consistent with their gender identity."
Furthermore the policy states, "Any student who is uncomfortable using a shared sex-separated facility, regardless of the reason, shall, upon the student's request, be provided with a safe and non-stigmatizing alternative."
The new rules will be added to the policy handbook for parents and students.
When the school board discussed the policy at its July meeting, Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis said faculty and staff would undergo training on how to follow the new school code.
At that meeting, Kelly Shuff-Heck, a school adjustment counselor for Pittsfield Public Schools, said the issue is more about cultural sensitivity rather than being politically correct.
McCandless praised Shuff-Heck for taking the lead in helping the school district formulate the policy.
"Kelly really wrote the project as she has the passion and expertise in this field," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.