LGBTQ Advocates Cautiously Optimistic Great Hearts Will Change Trans Policy

By Will Stone
Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 - 10:20am
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 - 10:52am

LGBTQ advocates are optimistic one of Arizona’s largest charter school networks will change its policy for transgender students.

Great Hearts, which runs more than two dozen schools in Arizona and Texas, has faced criticism since its board of directors passed a “biological sex and gender” policy that some call discriminatory.

It stipulates students must use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. It also applies to pronouns, dress code and school activities. Under Arizona law, a person must undergo sex reassignment surgery to change the gender on a birth certificate.

“We haven’t seen their proposed reform, but we understand it’s going to be a meaningful change," said Madelaine Adelman, co-founder of the Phoenix chapter of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLSEN.

Adelman said Great Hearts reached out to her in December to learn more about her concerns with the policy. Since then, she has had a series of talks with school administrators and said she is cautiously optimistic they intend to change it.

“We are hoping and we think it’s going to be a change that will make sure that trans students can be included in the school as themselves," she said. "We brought them research findings about what the extent of anti trans discrimination is in K-12 schools and why their policy could contribute to the discrimination."

Great Hearts did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Rob Chevaleau, who runs a local trans support group and has advocated for a new policy, said he is under the same impression as Adelman based on conversations with the school.

“That the policy will go away and a new statement of diversity and inclusiveness will go in its place," Chevaleau said. "Should any student need to divert from anything in the family handbook, the school will be open to accommodate that.”

Chevaleau has not yet seen the proposed new policy, either.

He said he was told by school administrators the board of directors would meet in mid-February to consider the changes.

However, the meeting could not be confirmed because charter school corporate board meetings are exempted from Open Meeting law in most cases, according to a 2000 Arizona attorney general’s opinion.

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