Transgender ruling will affect Maine schools

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September 30, 2010, 5:36 pm
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(NECN: Amy Sinclair) - A recent ruling by the Maine Human Rights Commission is forcing schools across the state to look at how they handle transgender students. The commission said a middle school in Orono discriminated against a transgender student by not allowing the child to use the girls' bathroom.

It's lunchtime at a Portland, Maine high school. It's possible among these students is a child who was born with a biological sex but identifies as a different gender.

James Morse--Portland Supt: "We have youngsters who are transgender at the elementary school we have them in middle schools and high schools, we don't make a big deal and they are successful in the Portland school systems."

One of the main issues facing transgender students is choosing a bathroom.

Morse:  "They are allowed to use a bathroom in every school....it is dealt with respectfully and uniquely to those buildings needs."

At its most recent meeting, the Maine Human Rights Commission ruled that a middle school student in Orono was discriminated against because the child, who is biologically a boy, was not allowed to use the girls bathroom.

Sarah Holmes--Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity: "This student identifies as a girl, dresses as a girl, perceived by her classmates as a girl."

Sarah Holmes is familiar with the student involved in this case. She says people are recognizing they are transgender at an earlier age in part because there is more awareness and parents are more supportive.

While Maine does have an anti-discrimination law, there is no state policy to guide schools on how to accommodate transgender students.
           
Sarah Holmes: "It's no more complicated than providing safe and appropriate bathroom access to students
as they identify."

Some are worried accommodating transgender students might  make others uncomfortable....but students we spoke with said that's not a concern for them.

Portland's superintendent says it's a matter of society catching up with the needs of these students....and guidelines from the state for schools to follow would be a good place to start.

Tags: transgender, Amy Sinclair, Orono Maine, discrimination
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