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When It Comes To LGBT Bathroom Rights, This Small Town Actually Gets It

We’ve been hearing a lot from the southern states who want to restrict who can pee where, but today we’re going to switch gears and look at a neighborhood that’s actually trying to do the right thing.

New Jersey Board Of Education Implements Comprehensive Policy To Protect LGBT Students

The Garden State has some of the most progressive Transgender Equality Laws in the country, but the members of the Highland Park Board of Education thought that the state’s measures didn’t go far enough. That’s why the Board of Education (BOA) has scheduled to vote early next moth “on a new policy that officials and experts say could be the most dynamic in New Jersey in addressing transgender equality.” According to the president of the Highland Park Board of Education, Darcie Cimarusti:

“In Highland Park, we pride ourselves on our diversity … a place where we want everyone to feel welcomed, and to be themselves.”

They certainly took that pride to heart. Earlier this year the BOA put together a coalition comprised of mental health experts, existing BOE members, as well as the school superintendent. Their aim was to create a policy that would address gender identity in Highland Park schools.

Stephanie Sasso, a clinical psychologist on the committee, said the policy would protect “the rights of gender diverse students more strongly than most districts, [and] possibly any district.”

That’s a big deal.  According to Sasso, whose specialty is treating gender diverse individuals:

“the policy would implement a support plan for gender diverse students in the school district. It would also prohibit discrimination, address privacy concerns, and affirm the particular pronoun as to which a gender diverse student wished to be identified. Transgender students would also be allowed to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.”

Why Are Bathrooms So Important?

Sasso cited a study by  the Family Acceptance Project, saying:

“‘LGBT-affirming school environment is good for everyone,’ not just for the LGBT students. The study showed that all students in this type of educational environment are ‘less likely to drop out, less likely to experience depression’ and more likely to have higher self-esteem and to succeed in higher education.”

Although psychologists are still trying to discover more on the correlation between LGBT youth and an increased risk of self harm, Tracy Alderman PH. D. had this to say in a 2009 edition of Psychology Today:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that self-injury is more common within the LGBT community than within the heterosexual community.  There are several reasons why a higher prevalence of self-injury within the LGBT community actually makes some sense.  Self-injury typically begins in adolescence, a time when sexuality and sexual orientation are being explored.  LGBT youth, particularly those who have not yet come out and/or formed close relationships with others like them, seem particularly susceptible to many of the factors that may contribute to self-injurious behaviors.  These individuals often lack a solid support system, struggle to fit in, hide their sexual orientation, and are at a point in life when they have limited functional coping skills.  Research has demonstrated that LGBT youth have higher rates of suicide and other types of self-damaging behaviors such as alcohol and drug use (Garofalo, Wolf, Wissow, Woods & Goodman, 1999; DuRant, Krowchuck & Sinal, 1998).  Thus, it makes sense that this particular population is likely confronted with numerous overwhelming emotions and limited resources for coping, placing them at greater risk to self-injure than those without the pressures associated with being LGBT.”

In other words, trans youth, queer youth, even just the weirdo kid who will eat anything on a dare will thrive in an environment that is inclusive and supportive of a diverse population. But trying to stifle that diversity could be a death sentence.

We all need to come together to enact a positive change in our communities. As Michelle McFadden-DiNicola from the BOE said:

“[There’s] no shame in admitting that we are human; and we fall short of perfection sometimes. But, once we understand that there is a need, I believe that our…community [does] try our best to meet those needs.”

 

Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images

Cecilia B is an educator and professional bookworm from the suburbs of Houston, Texas with a keen eye for politics, cats and young adult literature.
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