The Portland Board of Education on Tuesday night unanimously approved what’s considered one of Maine’s most comprehensive transgender policies, requiring staff training, using a student’s preferred name and personal pronoun, and taking the student’s side at school if there is disagreement with a parent’s wishes.
“This is a watershed moment in the state of Maine,” said attorney Mary Bonauto, a Portland parent who helped the school board craft the policy. Bonauto, the Maine lawyer who successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court for same-sex couples to have the right to marry, has two high school-aged children in the Portland school district.
Portland is one of about a half-dozen Maine school districts that have adopted transgender policies. The first, in Millinocket, was adopted in early 2015 soon after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued the nation’s first state court ruling affirming the right of a transgender student to use a bathroom corresponding with her gender identity.
The policies are similar, and many are based on boilerplate language suggested by the law firm Drummond Woodsum, which represents most school districts, and the Maine School Management Association. The language reflects an interpretation of the court ruling by the Maine Human Rights Commission.
In general, the policies say students should be addressed by their chosen names and pronouns, and be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The policies also define terms such as sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and transgender, and address student privacy issues.
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