HILLSDALE, N.J. — Transgender students in the Pascack Valley school district will be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, under a policy approved Monday night.
School Board members approved the measure by a 6-1 vote before about 100 people -- a majority of them students -- at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale. Two board members were absent.
Board member Joseph Blundo opposed it, saying he was concerned about students' feelings on dealing with transgender classmates.
"It's a no vote, not because of religious or political reasons," said Blundo, adding that he is a Democrat.
Although a dozen or so other North Jersey districts have similar policies, Pascack Valley has become a lightning rod, of sorts, as a nationwide debate swells over accommodating transgender citizens.
Mahwah Board of Education President Kim Barron said that she voted no to a similar policy in her district.
“It's not about bigotry, hatred or fear," she said. “It's about allowing a minority of students to infringe on rights of a majority.”
Attendees at the meeting included several students in favor of the policy, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation and allows transgender students to participate in gym class and sports.
“Why should transgender students have to live in the comfort of the cisgender students?” asked Pascack Hills student Andrea Kent. "They're human too... they're our peers, they're our friends...."
After having a conversation with a former male classmate who now identifies as a woman, “I don’t notice [gender] anymore," Steve Goodman said. "I hope this means I’m making some progress.”
Proponents have called the policy fair and dignified validation, while opponents have expressed concern for students who prefer not to share private facilities with transgender classmates. Others have questioned the policy's protection of students' gender identities from their parents.
"Have you ever allowed your children to change with members of the opposite sex?" questioned Bernadette Orso of Hillsdale. "Why is that okay now?"
“It does not mean that we don’t love these people…we [just] don’t agree...” added Linda Russo of River Vale.
The district is made up of two high schools, Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills, and serves students from Hillsdale, Montvale, River Vale and Woodcliff Lake.
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