Westwood Regional School Board Revisits Transgender Student Policy

Westwood Regional School Board Revisits Transgender Student Policy

Westwood School Board debates Policy 5756, focusing on transgender student rights and parental involvement. Key insights into the LGBTQ+ policy discussion.

A Critical Decision on Hold

In Westwood, the local Regional School Board is in the middle of a pivotal discussion regarding Policy 5756, a policy designed to protect transgender students. 

This policy, which is a choice rather than a requirement for schools, matches New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws. 

The board has now paused deciding whether to bring this policy back as they need more time to discuss things with their lawyer.

The Story Behind Policy 5756

It started when Chris Christie was governor in 2017; many schools across New Jersey have picked up policy 5756. 

The policy’s main point is to respect the gender identity and pronouns that students choose for themselves without always telling their parents. 

The idea is to make sure LGBTQ+ students feel safe and supported, especially if they might face trouble at home or in their neighborhoods.

A Divisive Issue Among Board Members

However, this policy has stirred up some debate. 

Some people think it violates parents’ rights. 

Last December, the board, which members then led and focused on parents’ rights, voted 5-2 to remove the policy. 

However, things started to change after the school board elections in November brought in new members.

A proposal to bring back the policy was made at a recent meeting. However, Laura CooperDouglas Cusato, and Kristen Pedersen, who still favor parents’ rights, had some doubts. 

They were worried about getting sued and whether this policy was needed. 

Their concerns led to a close 5-4 vote to postpone the decision.

What Does Policy 5756 Do?

Policy 5756 allows students to decide their gender identity and pronouns. It follows the state’s Education Department guidelines and discusses handling situations where parents and students do not agree. 

The main goal is to create a safe and welcoming place for transgender students at school.

Even though the policy was dropped, the state’s Law Against Discrimination still protects transgender students, which makes some wonder how much this local policy matters.

Cooper mentioned a few requests from the community to discuss Policy 5756 again. 

She is also worried about legal issues if the policy is reinstated. 

On the other hand, Board President Jay Garcia pointed out that most school districts in the state follow similar policies and have no legal problems.

Debating the Policy’s Value

Pedersen thinks the policy might be unnecessary because state laws and school plans already protect transgender people. 

She is trying to figure out if the policy is helpful or could cause problems. Cusato is concerned about free speech and how New Jersey’s approach is different from places like Florida, where parents have more say.

What is Next?

As the board continues to consider this, Acting Superintendent Frank Connelly clarified that the school will continue following the policy’s principles, whether officially in place or not. 

This discussion is a big deal in Westwood, showing how people are trying to balance parents’ rights, students’ independence, and what the law says.

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