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The Dripby Fern Shen3:00 pmMar 1, 20170

City Schools pressed to affirm rights of transgender students

Leaders ask CEO for more specific assurances, after Trump rescinds the rules on bathrooms for transgender students

Above: Ava Pipitone, Jabari Lyles and Steve Sias, of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance, ask the school board to affirm transgender students’ rights. (Fern Shen)

As about 100 people rallied outside, leaders of the Baltimore Transgender Alliance last night called on CEO Sonja Santelises to more explicitly affirm transgender students’ rights, in the wake of the White House reversal of the rules on bathrooms for transgender students.

In a joint Justice Department and Education Department letter, the Trump administration last week revoked the previous Obama administration’s order that had allowed students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Addressing the school board, Ava Pipitone, the group’s executive director, said while the focus has been on school bathrooms, the real issue is more fundamental.

“Not being allowed access public accommodations is just a nice way of saying we don’t want you in our public spaces,” Pipitone said. “The bullies are emboldened and now the bullying is systemic.”

Pipitone thanked Santelises for her earlier remarks, made after referencing the audible demonstration outside.

“We Value  Diversity”

Santelises had said City Schools “is committed to ensuring  safe, supportive school environments for all students. Things remain unchanged regardless of any federal action.”

“We value the diversity of all students whatever their race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” she told the standing-room only crowd.

Thanking the seated board members for being “allies,” Pipitone said the group “needs action” and went on to read three demands.

• That Santelises “makes a statement and acts in a manner affirming the rights of trans students expressly addressing the existing guidelines for extending Maryland trans students access to public accommodations at public schools.”

• That every school identifies one LGBT ally, for the creation of a gender and sexuality alliance, at each school.

• That City Schools welcomes in the advocacy group GLSEN to provide trans-developed and trans-led training sessions for students.

The Brew has asked City Schools for a response. We will publish it when we receive it.


Edie House Foster, BCPS spokeswoman, today provided this response:

“City Schools stands in support of the rights of LGBTQ youth and all students to an educational environment that is free from harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or bullying. The district is committed to providing safe and supportive environments for teaching and learning, where diversity is valued and all students can realize their full potential. This commitment includes continued support for and adherence to Maryland State Department of Education guidelines regarding safe spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

The district thanks the representatives of City Schools’ LGBTQ community and GLSEN for their advocacy and testimony at the Board of School Commissioners meeting on February 28. Following our practice with respect to formal public comment, the district is now preparing a response to the specific requests made, which will be shared with GLSEN as soon as possible.”

About 100 people rally in support of trans students' rights outside Baltimore city schools headquarters. (Fern Shen)

About 100 people rally in support of transgender students’ rights outside schools headquarters last night. (Fern Shen)

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