[April 2017] Gender inclusive policies promised at Staples in defiance of withdrawn federal protections


By: Izzy Connors ’18

*names have been changed

The Trump administration announced on Wednesday Feb. 22 that federal protections for transgender students that allow them to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity at schools will be withdrawn, reversing a landmark executive order issued by the Obama administration.
In the wake of the decision, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, released a statement condemning Trump’s actions. “In Connecticut, we will defend the rights of all students regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity and disability status,” Malloy stated. He reassured residents that the state will continue to implement policies that “will continue to protect their access to welcoming learning environments.”
Nevertheless, many Staples High School students who identify as transgender were shocked and saddened by Trump’s regressive measures. “My overall immediate reaction was probably fear,” Ethan*, who identifies as agender, said. “I wasn’t very worried about myself so much as the transgender children younger than me and those who would be brought up in this sort of systematic oppression where they wouldn’t have basic rights.”
Although the federal administration claims that they remain in support of LGBTQ students and that the decision was merely based on “legal issues,” some conservatives have commended the revocation as they interpret it to be a firm stand against transgender rights. Jamie Lamb ’18, who identifies as a conservative, supports Trump’s revocation because “everyone should be required to use the bathrooms based on the genders they were born with.”
Staples has already made numerous changes that seek to facilitate a safe and accepting environment for all students. The school has converted a staff bathroom on each floor into unisex bathrooms that can be accessed by all students. “Although it isn’t a perfect solution to the issues we face, granting people freedom to choose the bathrooms they’re comfortable with is one of the first steps to making our society more tolerant of all people,” Sam*, a transgender student at Staples, said.
However, although Staples is claiming to have cemented its support for LGBTQ students through its addition of unisex bathrooms, Ethan*, Sam* and numerous other students believe that this is not sufficient and more needs to be done. In fact, two of the unisex bathrooms are locked at all times and not able to be accessed by students.
Mr D’Amico explained that “those restrooms were not unlocked yet as we wanted to start with bathrooms that were in high-traffic areas, as well as to make sure we have adequate bathrooms for staff use.” Many students, however, firmly believe that this fact is a hindrance to the school’s so-called progression. When confronted about this, D’Amico assured that the school will “reassess at the end of the school year.”
Transgender Staples students seem to be rather uninformed about the whole situation. “The bathrooms are still locked and there are many gender neutral students who aren’t aware of the intent to unlock bathrooms,” Ethan* explained. “We [also] skipped the most important step in the process of acceptance, and that’s education. Students outside of the LGBT+ community need to understand why it’s so important that we accept everyone despite our differences. Even if we just touched on the subject in, say, freshman health [class], that’s progress.”
When asked about these concerns, Principal James D’Amico expressed complete confidence that the school will continue to strive for a tolerant environment. “The boys locker rooms are scheduled to be renovated this summer [to include] more private options for students. Moving forward, we would consider having more [unisex] restrooms in the academic wings, since there are already private facilities in the design of the building.”
With regard to curriculum changes, D’Amico believes that LGBTQ issues are touched upon throughout the curriculum, but agrees that it should be more extensive and urges students to bring their proposed changes to the curriculum board.
Despite the vocalized support within the school and the state, Sam* remains afraid for the future of the United States under the Trump administration. “[Trump’s actions] leave a discussion that should be national up to the states; it allows human rights, which should be universal, up to the discretion of local leaders with little experience in the matters that they judge.”
“If I could say anything to Donald Trump I’d remind him who his client is,” Ethan* said. “He’s working for the people of the United States. While that was once a place that revolved around middle-aged cis white males, it’s now a place of then-unimaginable diversity. His job, in the broadest terms, is to keep all of those people satisfied, and he’s doing exactly the opposite.”