Edmonds School Board addresses recognition of transgender students

Edmonds School Board Directors at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors at its Tuesday night meeting addressed parents’ and teachers’ concerns about how the district is recognizing transgender students.

During the meeting’s public comments section, Jennifer Fitzgerald – a teacher and mother of four in the district – talked about how sad some recent public comments have made her.

“At both the past two board meetings, the public comments have left me speechless, disheartened and angry,” she said. “I was shocked to hear multiple community members come forward with transphobia.”

Fitzgerald thanked the district for what they have done to make transgender students feel welcomed and accepted in their classes. As the parent of a transgender child, she said she felt a weight off her shoulders knowing her daughter is being taken care of at school.

“As I look towards her transition to middle school and eventually high school, I’m not afraid like I once was,” Fitzgerald said.

Her daughter also spoke, reading a poem about her experience as a transgender student.

“My generation is through with the glass ceiling,” she said. “We are shattering it. So, thank you for letting us break the glass.”

Jennifer Fitzgerald’s daughter shares a poem about transgender students.

On the other hand, Karen Mossman, who also made a public comment a few weeks ago regarding the issue, said she doesn’t see why one group of people should be getting special days, weeks or months of celebration when so many others are being ignored, especially those who fit into traditional roles.

“Although I’m no biologist, I do know how to define a woman and a man,” Mossman said. “In addition, I’m offended that I would be called transphobic just because I don’t agree with this issue.”

While board members don’t usually speak on issues that are addressed during public comments, some said they felt the need to offer their thoughts.

Director Keith Smith said rather than tearing each other down, the school district community should be listening and learning from each other’s different experiences.

“None of us can ever know what someone else’s experience is,” Smith said. “I think that the word ‘transphobic’ is very loaded and I think that makes people feel like we’re trying to say that they’re a bad person. Even though I may disagree with some others in our community about stuff, that doesn’t mean that I think anyone out there is a bad person or isn’t fighting for what they think is right or what they think is going to be best. And I think that everyone’s job is just to take a second and listen and accept people where they’re at and learn from other people’s experiences so we can be stronger.”

President Nancy Katims also weighed in on the conversation, offering an example of children’s perspectives on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

“You asked: Why don’t we do a recognition of boys and a recognition of girls?” Katims said. “And when you asked that, it made me think of what always comes up on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when the kids are little and they say, ‘Why isn’t there a kid’s day?’ And our answer is: Every day is kid’s day. 

“Most of our students fit into traditional roles. Most of them are boys who are born as boys. They identify as boys. They grow up as boys and they’re comfortable. Same with girls. And for them, life treats them very well. Our concern as a board is to make sure that all those students who don’t fit in those traditional roles for whatever reason, also feel like they belong and are respected. I don’t know any boy or girl who has been bullied or harassed because they were born a boy or a girl, grew up that way, identified that way. But I know of a lot of students … who talked about how difficult it is for them to be able, in school, to be who they really are.”

In other business, the board received an update on various school district initiatives:

  • Positive COVID-19 cases are at 11.6%, which is higher than they have been in the district during the past few months. There have been 492 positive cases reported in the past two weeks. Currently, three elementary classrooms have gone back to wearing masks for a 10-day period due to a rise in positive cases from those students.
  • Paper Tutor, the new online tutoring platform, has reached over 300 tutoring sessions since its launch. Session numbers are continuing to rise as more students learn about the platform and get comfortable using it.
  • Each chat session is recorded to enable students the ability to look back should they need help again. Tutors help answer students’ questions, then help them work through particular problems to ensure they understand before the chat is ended.
  • Graduation ceremony planning is underway throughout the district. For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional ceremonies without capacity limits will be held for all schools. Live streams will be provided for each ceremony for those who are unable to attend in person.

The board also unanimously approved Policy #6970, which states that school and team mascots, logos or images will not be of Native American names, symbols or images unless the local tribe has approved the use by appropriate enactment or resolution.

In addition to consulting and receiving approval from the appropriate tribe, the district must also comply with state law requiring collaboration with the tribe on the district’s social studies curriculum and its ongoing inclusion of the tribe’s history, culture and government in that curriculum.

Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas said he’s proud of how the district is handling this issue.

“We are in constant dialogue with [local tribes],” Balderas said. “We need to [continue to] make sure we engage with our local tribes whenever there’s anything in terms of this substance.”

The board of directors poses with each teacher who received or renewed their National Board Certification.

In other business, the board congratulated all teachers who passed their initial or renewed National Board Certification. 

National Board Certification involves an extensive series of performance-based assessments that include teaching portfolios, student work samples, videos and analysis of classroom teaching and student learning. Teachers also complete a series of written exercises that probe the depth of their subject-matter knowledge, as well as their understanding of how to teach those subjects to their students. The entire process can take up to 400 hours.

A list of teachers who passed their initial certification are:

Kelly Hui—Meadowdale Elementary

Suzanne Norring—College Place Elementary

Kat Webb—Alderwood Early Childhood Center

Teachers who renewed their National Board Certification are:

Alecia Aillaud—Oak Heights Elementary

Deborah Dunne—Meadowdale Middle School

John Elsener—Edmonds Woodway High School

Angel Ericksen—Alderwood Middle School

Katherine Fain—Meadowdale Middle School

Catherine Feller— Lynndale Elementary

Bobby Hinnenkamp—Lynnwood High School

Sara Kaleo—Oak Heights Elementary

Heather Lippert—Mountlake Terrace Elementary

Kathryn McGreenery—College Place Elementary

Juli Moe—Lynndale Elementary

Lindsay Parker—College Place Middle School

Megan Teeter—Terrace Park School

Brenda Torres—Lynnwood High School

Stephanie Wittenbrink—Mountlake Terrace High School

–By Lauren Reichenbach

  1. Director Keith Smith
    Thank you for your wise comments. It’s too bad that we can’t participate in discourse without name calling
    and labeling. When that is done, no one wins.

  2. Director Keith Smith may have meant well, but perhaps needs to educate himself on “tone policing”. I appreciate the perspective shared by Nancy Katims.

  3. How are we supposed to take this board seriously about the support of transgender students? Multiple times in their comments they misgendered Aiden. When a student uses the wrong pronoun in class towards another student, they will be reprimanded. The article doesn’t even mention this and nobody was told to correct themselves or apologize for such blatant disregard for Aiden. How can they say they are supporting and then not even listen as Jennifer clearly tells Aiden’s story of choosing she/her pronouns? The irony in all this is I am speaking up even though, Jennifer would put me in the transphobic category; since my personal beliefs do not align with the LGBTQ community. I do however feel if the board is so insistent on pushing the gender identity curriculum and enforcement of proper pronoun use in the schools, they need to be held accountable for their errors. If my children or I were to misgender someone, I know the board/school would call me out as hateful and clueless. They need to see that maybe the equity training is not working, and not really the problem to be addressing. Listening and overall acceptance of one’s beliefs is really what would help our students. I do not support the LGBTQ community Ideologies being pushed on all students, it should be the choice of parents how they educate their children in regards to those beliefs. Teaching kindness, and acceptance of all, rather than select groups, is what should be taught. Keeping parents involved in their children’s education is also the best way to fix our system.

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