Kansas school district’s planned transgender policy could violate law, ACLU says

Gardner Edgerton school board doesn’t plan to vote on policy at next meeting

By: - September 8, 2022 5:07 pm
Recent bills in the Kansas House pose threats to education, freedom and reason, writes David Norlin. (Getty Images)

Gardner Edgerton school board members will discuss a potential transgender policy at Monday's headline. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the proposal would be harmful and possibly illegal. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas condemned a school district’s discussed transgender policy as potentially illegal and harmful, in anticipation of a deciding vote on the matter.

Parents, students and board members in the Gardner Edgerton School District discussed the contentious policy during July and August board meetings. 

The policy would require students and staff to use pronouns from their original birth certificate, with changing rooms and restrooms designated solely for those assigned to the corresponding gender at birth. Students in violation of the policy would be disciplined, and parents who knew of policy violations could sue the district. 

The ACLU of Kansas in a letter released Thursday said the proposed policy potentially violates federal antidiscrimination law and students’ constitutional equal protection rights, as well as federal and constitutional privacy laws. 

School district superintendent Brian Huff said the policy would not be voted on during the Sept. 12 board meeting, though it would still be discussed as a proposed set of guidelines. Huff said the BOE looked at other districts’ transgender policies and got legal advice about the proposed transgender guidelines ahead of the meeting. 

“We love our students and desire to provide the best education possible,” Huff wrote in an emailed statement to Kansas Reflector. 

“This is a very delicate issue, and we wish to provide a safe and dignified educational environment for all our students,” he added.

D.C. Hiegert, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said a potential school district policy could harm transgender students. (American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas)
D.C. Hiegert, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said a potential school district policy could harm transgender students. (American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas)

Kansas ACLU legal fellow D.C. Hiegert, who authored the letter, said the accommodation provided in the policy for transgender students — single-occupancy changing rooms and restrooms — would still alienate and stigmatize transgender students.

Kansas currently has no laws that school districts must refer to students by their legal names, or use pronouns in connection with sex assigned at birth, Hiegert wrote. 

Hiegert had spoken with a deeply concerned family in the district, who worried their child would suffer mentally and academically if the policy was enforced. 

“There’s no reason for a policy like this,” Hiegert said. “There’s no reason to be kind of playing games with students’ health and safety when it’s not necessary.”

School board communication officials did not respond to Kansas Reflector inquiries regarding the number of transgender students within the school district.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.