The South Orange Maplewood Board of Education passed several important policies Monday night that seek to maximize equity in educational programs, minimize discrimination and protect students against hate crimes and bias incidents. In addition, the board introduced two new policies regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students, and students with disabilities.
Policy 5750 states that, “No pupil shall be denied access to or benefit from any educational program or activity or from a co-curricular or athletic activity.” Policy 5755 states that, “It is the policy of the Board of Education to ensure equal and barrier-free access for all students to school facilities, courses, programs, activities, and services.”
Both of these policies must be followed regardless of “race, color, creed, religion, level of English proficiency, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or domestic partnership or civil union status, sex, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, socio-economic status, military service, atypical cellular or blood trait, genetic information, or disability.”
Policy 8465 further protects students from hate crimes and bias incidents by “providing a safe and healthy environment for all children in the school district.” Offenses are considered to be hate crimes if “the motive for the commission of the offense or unlawful act is racial, religious, ethnic or pertains to gender identity or expression or sexual orientation.”
Each of these policies were passed to ensure equal treatment of and opportunity for all students.
You can see the Board of Education’s full agenda here.
The two new policies that had their first reading and discussion among board members are: Policy 5754 Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students and Policy 5750.1 Student Disabilities Pursuant To Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Both policies, read and summarized by district counsel and HIB coordinator Philip Stern, seek to ensure proper following of state anti-discriminatory laws and consequently provide the best education possible for all students. Inclusive language highlighting the necessity of equal opportunity is found in both policies:
Policy 5754, regarding transgender and gender nonconforming students, seeks to provide “a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students, including, transgender, gender nonconforming, and/or gender expansive students (TGNEC), and to ensuring that every student has equal educational opportunities and equal access to the District’s educational programs and activities.”
Stern noted that the board had used as its model the Highland Park Board of Education’s transgender policy.
Policy 5750.1 states that the board is responsible to”provide a Free Appropriate Public Education for qualified persons with disabilities that is commensurate with that provided for persons who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate to meet the needs of the students with disabilities.” These provisions extend to nonacademic and extracurricular activities and facilities as well.
Stern, who is resigning, urged the board to further conversation about harassment, intimidation and bullying. He stresses that “rules governing this may… make having that conversation uncomfortable,” thus leading to underreported instances of mistreatment of fellow students.
Student representative Filip Saulean raised concerns about the actual implementation of these policies and the ensuring of all faculty and administration members follow through.
President of the Board Elizabeth Baker said, “This is one of the areas where the board adopts a policy but the administration is responsible for implementation.” Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad echoed this, saying, “A good plan ensures implementation is flawless.”
The policies will have a second reading and vote at the next board meeting on August 22.