NAMPA — Nampa School District is considering a policy that would prevent classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades.
The policy, which would prohibit gender identity, sexual orientation, transgender identity and gender expression to be discussed or taught about in Nampa schools, has similarities to the controversial bill passed by Florida Gov. and Republican presidential nominee hopeful Ron DeSantis that has garnered national headlines.
Known to critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, DeSantis’ bill bans classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades.
Nampa schools’ policy explains that the school board recognizes the “rights of parents, guardians, and caregivers to discuss, address, and educate their child on every subject matter, especially the non-academic subject matters not addressed in the District.”
The Nampa school board unanimously approved policy 2050 for first read at a May 15 meeting. The policy is not yet put in place, but could be after a second read in June.
“All our kids are beautifully and fearfully made, and we need to remember that,” board member Tracey Pearson said. “We need to encourage the healthy bodies that these children were born into. That’s what we need to encourage and focus on because the mind is a powerful tool. We need to make sure that we are speaking truth to these children, that’s why this is so imperative. And I’m just appalled that we’re even having to debate such a thing.”
No coach or teacher would be allowed to have discussions with their students about gender identity, so if a student were to express a desire to talk about their identity, they would be directed to a school counselor, who would discuss the issue with the student’s parents, Superintendent Gregg Russell said. This process is meant to ensure there is complete transparency between the district and students’ families.
The district’s priority is to ensure their students are safe, according to Russell. After that is confirmed, the student’s parents will be alerted, Russell said. Under this policy, there will be no “encouragement or confirmation” of how students are feeling about their gender, Pearson said.
“(The policy is) really to make sure the students are protected, that they’re healthy and then after that it’s determined what the family would like to do,” Russell said.
It is not clear if any other school districts in Idaho have enacted a similar policy. Because Idaho is a local control state, policy decisions are for individual districts to decide and Idaho school districts do not have to share their policies with the Idaho State Department of Education, according to Maggie Reynolds, public information officer at the Idaho Department of Education.
The intention behind this kind of policy is to ensure families have primary control over their children’s education, said Jamie Derrick, professor of psychology and communication at the University of Idaho. While the intention is good, these kinds of policies pose a couple of problems, Derrick said.
“There’s probably just a little bit of an unstated agenda here that has to do with the diversity of experiences that people have around to their gender identity and their sexual orientation, and attempts to really narrow the conversation,” Derrick said. “It just it creates silences, and it creates a context where it’s difficult to get information or support.”
That is really hard on children who identify in ways that are different from their families or peers, Derrick said.
She added that kids who identify as LGBTQ+ are at far greater risk for mental health problems and suicide ideation.
“The exploration of gender and sexual orientation is part of normal development. Every single kid does this as their bodies mature, and they start to have hormonal changes and brain changes and their bodies are developing. Every single kid is asking questions,” Derrick said. “And when we restrict conversations about that, it leaves kids in a void — an information void. That can be really scary because lots of kids don’t know what’s happening with their bodies or what’s happening with their brains.”
The proposed policy creates situations where students could be outed by their schools, Derrick said. If students know that whatever they say to a school counselor will be reported to their parents, they will probably keep whatever they’re feeling in.
“They’re going to keep it to themselves, so they won’t get support and education and they won’t get resources. They won’t even get correction about misinformation,” Derrick said.
In the Nampa schools proposed policy, the biological sex of all students will only be based on either the student’s official birth certificate or what the school has on file, Russell said during the board meeting.
When students attend overnight trips that are put on by the district, they will be assigned sleeping accommodations based on their biological sex, Russell said.
School athletics that are under the direction of the Idaho High School Activities Association must be in line with IHSAA regulations. The regulations currently state that a male-to-female transgender student-athlete may participate on a boys team at any time after completing one year of hormone treatment related to their transition.
The district’s dress code policy encourages parents and students to “exercise sound judgement” and wear things that are appropriate for a school setting.
Nampa’s policy reads, “it is not the intent of the District or its employees to be intentionally disparaging regarding the use of specific pronouns. Forcing students or teachers to use pronouns that do not correspond with an individual’s biological sex is for the individual to determine. The District recognizes that it cannot compel speech, nor may it require its administration, employees, or students to affirm any belief they do not hold.”