Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Board OKs Budget, Seeks Restroom Input

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Board OKs Budget, Seeks Restroom Input

Article excerpt

SARAOTA COUNTY SCHOOLS

SARASOTA -- By a 4-1 vote, save for a couple of ambitious tweaks, the Sarasota County School Board approved Todd Bowden's first budget he proposed as district superintendent Tuesday afternoon.

Among other things, the template included helping administrators by creating six new assistant elementary principal positions, five assistant middle school principals, and five assistant high school principals.

But despite a large vocal turnout two weeks ago by supporters of transgender student rights, the board, during a sharply divided morning workshop discussion, decided not to schedule a vote until the hot-button issue was subjected to further review.

Bowden offered up related discrimination policies adopted by Hillsborough and Broward counties, and asked board members if they wanted a new policy "to include the words gender identity and/or expression, and more important than

that, the implications of doing so." He cautioned that instituting policy changes could open the schools to procedural headaches, particularly over issues like bathroom choice and road trip lodging.

The general consensus among the board was that school administrators had indeed managed, so far, to successfully resolve gender anxieties on a situational basis without having countywide policies in place. Board members who'd been around since the controversy erupted last year admitted they had all done considerable research since then. Still, they could not reach a consensus.

Shirley Brown favored adopting gender-identity language, and said without codification, some transgender students who weren't ready to come "out" by talking to principals might continue to suffer in silence. Bridget Ziegler, on the other hand, wondered if a policy change might open "a Pandora's box" of unintended consequences, fraught with complexities. "You have not just transgender, you have gender nonbinary and gender fluid," she said. "How do we deal with that?"

"I don't care whether Johnny wears a dress," added Eric Robinson. …

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