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Spectrum Club promotes safety and awareness

A+bulletin+board+designed+by+Spectrum+Club+members+decorates+a+main+hallway+in+EJSHS.+This+idea+is+to+bring++awareness+to+LGBTQ%2B+rights+and+to+educate+people+about+different+gender+identities.
A bulletin board designed by Spectrum Club members decorates a main hallway in EJSHS. This idea is to bring  awareness to LGBTQ+ rights and to educate people about different gender identities.

A bulletin board designed by Spectrum Club members decorates a main hallway in EJSHS. This idea is to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ rights and to educate people about different gender identities.

Kathryn Cambrea

Kathryn Cambrea

A bulletin board designed by Spectrum Club members decorates a main hallway in EJSHS. This idea is to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ rights and to educate people about different gender identities.

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Spectrum Club, a group that promotes a safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community, unveiled a new bulletin board this month in one of the main hallways at Emerson Junior-Senior High School. On the turquoise background are names and photos of prominent individuals in the arts, athletics and academics who identify with either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning identities. The unveiling coincides with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month).

“The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally,” according to the Library of Congress website.

One of the goals of Spectrum Club is to raise such awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, according to club adviser Jen Broekman.

“You don’t have to figure it out right away,” Broekman explained. “It’s your whatever you, whatever you feel, however you identify, is valid and it’s okay to change your mind as you grow up. It’s also okay to not change your mind as you grow up.”

Spectrum Club is new at EJSHS this year. About ten students attend the weekly Wednesday meetings. Larisa Kaplan, a senior member of Spectrum Club, helped decorate the hallway bulletin board. She thinks raising awareness of various gender identities is needed at EJSHS.

“I don’t think that [the students] are educated enough or that they care to be more educated,” Kaplan said.

Gender identity is an individual’s personal feeling of being a man or woman, according to the website for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). A media reference of gender identities is available on the GLAAD website. One identity is transgender. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth doesn’t match their gender identity.

An informal survey conducted by The Cavalier reporters shows that the district’s Policy #5756 titled “Transgender Students” is relatively unknown to its student population. The Emerson Board of Education members unanimously adopted the policy on June 20, 2016.

“The Board of Education is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for all students” and aims to “ensure [that] all students, including transgender students, have equal educational opportunities and equal access to the school district’s educational programs and activities,” states the policy.

A student’s word or the word of a parent is sufficient proof for determining gender identification “when there is consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity, or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the student’s core identity,” according to the policy.

However, either the school district superintendent or someone appointed by the superintendent can question that identity “where there is a credible basis for believing the student’s gender identity shall be addressed by the school district,” the policy said.

Following the advice of the U.S. Department of Education last year, the New Jersey Department of Education suggested that its school districts adopt policies on gender identity.

“As transgender rights become a more predominant topic, it was recommended to us that we adopt this policy,” School Superintendent Brian Gatens said.

According to a January 17 article in The Record about a similar policy adopted in Hackensack, 47 school districts in northern New Jersey have similar written plans. Those districts include nearby Pascack Valley, Rutherford and Westwood.

“We feel good that we are matching the interests of state law, but any changes would be advised by our community through the Board of Education and our student body,” Emerson High School Principal Brian Hutchinson said.

One of the more controversial parts of a transgender school policy is the procedure for using the restroom and locker room.

“Transgender students have access to the bathroom of their gender identity …. If they want to use a gender neutral restroom, that is their decision,” Gatens explained.

The Emerson policy further states that transgender students can use locker rooms that match their gender identity. The school district will provide an alternative changing area if requested.

A transgender student can take physical education classes according to their gender identity, but the school policy states that intramural and interscholastic athletic programs fall under New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association rules.

Those rules state: “A transgender student, defined as a student whose gender identity differs from the student’s birth sex, shall be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, under any of the following conditions: a. The student provides an official record, such as a revised birth certificate, a driver’s license or a passport, demonstrating legal recognition of the student’s reassigned sex, or b. A physician certifies that the student has had appropriate clinical treatment for transition to the reassigned sex, or c. A physician certifies that the student is in the process of transition to the reassigned sex.”

How district employees address the student is also outlined in the policy.

“We will honor the names and pronouns requested of the parent and student to have the student addressed by name or pronoun they choose,” Gatens said.

Transgender students follow the school dress code policy that corresponds to their gender identity.

“As the circle [of people] has grown wider, the acceptance has grown stronger,” Gatens said.

Social media is following suit. Male and female designations are not the only choices provided on some platforms. The daily online magazine called Slate lists fifty-six different gender identities available for use on Facebook.

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Spectrum Club promotes safety and awareness