At the end of November 2017, the Portland (ME) School Board voted to adopt an inclusive policy regarding gender. The policy is consistent with Maine laws concerning nondiscrimination in its schools and protection of LGBTQ rights.
Portland’s policy both affirms gender choice and protects students from gender bias. Specifically, it provides for gender identity bathrooms and changing rooms. It also upholds preferred pronoun use and nonspecific gender dress policies. All of this will be accompanied by staff development on gender issues for school faculty and other personnel.
The new policy was drafted by a group of school board members, parents, teachers, students, and advocates who began their work six months earlier. Although the Maine Principal’s Association has a transgender policy, principals were not reported as involved in the policy’s formation.
It is hoped by many that this strong action will pervade throughout the state, but there has not been any other reported action in the past four months. Both Orono schools in the Bangor area and Millinocket schools had adopted similar policies prior to Portland’s. However, those occurred before the removal of the policy guidance for transgender protection by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration in February 2017.
There have been a few negative reports from conservative newspapers and online journals about the new policy. Otherwise, there has been little reporting from other sources.
According to Barrett Wilkinson, Equity Specialist for Portland Public Schools, the initial work is progressing according to plan. “I can tell you so far that our policy roll out is going well, though it is still new. Part of the policy initiates that professional development on this topic is to be ongoing for staff, so that is really the first stage we are focusing on—to ensure everyone is oriented to the new policy and understands what it is all about.” She also wrote, “I’ve had some calls from other districts wanting to see our policy and understand it a bit more, but I don’t know if it’s specifically spring-boarded next steps—it very well may have but I haven’t heard. “
The NCTE Resolution on Social Justice in Literacy Education (2010), Resolution on Strengthening Teacher Knowledge of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues (2007) and NCTE Resolution on Diversity (1999) support the actions of the November 29, 2017 policy of the Portland School Board.