PFLAG

Question 1

Transgender bathroom and locker room use: 

Should HCPSS have a policy that allows transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms appropriate to their identified gender?

(Please answer this question before you answer your final three choices)

Yes.

Question 2

Bullying: What makes for an effective anti-bullying policy? Are there any areas in which you think HCPSS should improve its policies that address bullying?

In 2012, Grace McComas, a 15-year-old student, committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied via social media websites. In 2013 Grace’s Law was passed making cyber-bullying a misdemeanor. Shortly thereafter, Howard County Voices for Change Youth Coalition issued a report on the state of bullying and presented a number of recommendations to address it.

Today HCPSS has an online means of reporting bullying, though many in the community remain unaware of it. I’d seek to rectify this.

Noting that the report emphasized the power of peer trust and influence in designing solutions, I would advocate for the adoption of student-led “bystander” training.  One effective model, called Training Active Bystanders (TAB), has been developed by the Quabbin Mediation Center in Massachusetts. TAB helps participants recognize when they are bystanders, analyze the situation in which they find themselves, and evaluate the consequences for everyone involved. It illustrates how bystanders can disrupt bullying and in the process encourage positive action by others. Practices like this one are powerful tools to build community. These are the types of programs we need to implement.

Question 3

Curriculum: In what ways can Howard County revise its curriculum to not just accurately portray the truth of American and global history but also reflect the diverse demographics of the students who must learn it. In those efforts what could the school board do to moderate the effect of academic pressure put on students?

We can look at HCPSS system policies such as 8000 on curriculum, 8040 on instructional materials, etc which currently do not address diversity in the curriculum and reexamine those policies.  We can also include more diversity in all aspects of our curriculum from the books we keep in the media centers and classrooms to the infusing it more deeply into the curriculum.  I have worked to just that at my daughters school where we increased diversity in books at he media center and in the classroom. In our selection of children’s books we had representation from various communities including, LGBTQ, Special Education, Latino, etc.

Further, as part of the foundation I work with we have supported diversification of curriculum across the country, including but not only working with Advocates for youth on LGBTQ inclusive sex ed.

Question 4

Mental Health of Students: What more should our school system be doing to identify students in need of mental health services and to ensure their needs are addressed?

We know and understand the need for more staff trained in mental health services, so we should address that need. We should also consider professional development opportunities for educators to be more informed and attuned to student mental health.  We also can’t ignore the role lack of sleep, excessive device use, and the pressure placed on our students has contributed to the rise in mental illness.

Question 5

Dress Code: How should the Howard County school board ensure that dress code policies are enforced equitably across all genders, races, cultures, and body types?

The policy needs to be reviewed and educators need more guidance on following it consistently.  This efforts needs a representative body of students, parents, and educators to develop an appropriate policy.

Question 6

Involvement and Engagement of Students: What should the Howard County school board do to ensure that involvement in non-athletic extracurricular activities are not valued less than involvement in and attending athletic events?

Both should be treated as equally valuable. They should include the same treatment/resources in terms of meeting space, coaching resources, requiring background checks, etc.