By Emily Lapinski
In cooperation with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Berwyn South School District 100 leaders have now openly committed to creating an inclusive environment for students, families and staff regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The implementation of this policy started this past August after a summer of preparation and planning. According to the District 100 website taking on this policy was in response to students in both the middle and elementary schools in the district coming out as transgender.
Berwyn’s South School District is a racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse community, and it is nice to see it join the nationwide push for inclusion in schools.The North Berwyn district has yet to officially implement this policy and Morton High School District 201 has a variation of the policy in place.
“District 100 is proud to be a welcoming district, and proud to have implemented policies that support equity an inclusion for all students,” said Deanna Durica, vice president of the District 100 school board.
The current lack of backlash shows that parents in the district have been showing a certain level support in response to the policy. This was not the case in Palatine’s High School District 211 where parents filed a lawsuit against the school for allowing a transgender student to use opposite sex bathrooms and locker rooms.
According to the District 100 website, all six schools in the district have reviewed their policies, procedures, curriculum and teaching practices to make sure that they are staying true to their duty to make all children and families feel welcome.
The biggest development has been the Gender Support Teams. Each of the schools in the district has its own team made up of students, faulty and staff. The purpose of these teams is to create a safe space for all members to discuss issues and work on problem solving skills.
District 100’s Administrative Procedure Statement states that these teams are to consist of an administrator and school social worker, and may also include a school psychologist, teacher, nurse or physical education teacher. All members should be annually trained in the social, mental and emotional support of transgender and gender non-conforming children and adolescents.
Luz Macias, social worker and GS team leader at Emerson Elementary explained that the team is in charge of putting together a plan on how the student will be supported in the school. Items that would be included in plan would be, the name the student wants to be called, confidentiality limits, use of facilities, safety concerns, communication with other parents and students and documentation in student records.
“The team’s main goal is to support, advocate and help student receive full access to all needed resources within the school community regardless of his or her gender identity,” Macias said. “The outcome of this team is a Formal Support Plan outlining all the needs of the student and how they will be met.”
Political candidate and Berwyn resident Andy Kirchoff supports the progressive movement embraced by District 100.
“District 100 has been ahead of the curve on this issue and they should be commended for it,” said Kirchoff, a Republican running for the 24th Illinois house district.
“District 100 has been proactive and is doing the right thing for the kids that they serve. I think that, unlike other school districts where policies have been implemented, District 100 has done this in a transparent way. There was no effort to hide this from parents, especially those who might be concerned about unintended consequences of this policy. This isn’t something that the community is hiding from and I think it’s something to be proud of.”
For more information on the policy and how the district is implementing it as well as to hear the stories of some of the students in the district click here.