MCPS Offers New Option for Classifying Student Gender
Gender-neutral or non-binary can be signified on registration records with ‘X’
PHOTO VIA BENSON KUA, FLICKR.
Students who do not identify as male or female now may designate an “X” gender classification when registering in Montgomery County Public Schools.
The X signifies a gender-neutral identity, instead of “M” for male or “F” for female.
“What we had for a really long time, and most districts had, was this system where students could identify as male or female, but there wasn’t an opportunity for students who are nonbinary or don’t identify with a specific gender,” said Derek Turner, an MCPS spokesman. “This allows it to be clear internally and on state and federal reports what that student’s preference is.”
On Aug. 2, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith wrote a letter to the Maryland State Department of Education requesting permission to include the “X” marker.
In the letter, Smith said MCPS has received “a number of requests” from students and their parents seeking the designation. He wrote that the school system expects the issue “to become more pressing in light of” a bill passed by the state legislature allowing residents to designate their gender on their driver’s licenses as either male, female or “X” for unspecified or nonbinary.
Smith references other school districts that allow such a designation, including D.C. Public Schools and two school districts in Virginia.
On Aug. 13, State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon wrote back to Smith saying MSDE has “no objections to the approach.”
In her letter, Salmon said that although using the “X” designation for gender identity has implications for state and federal reporting of student data, “I believe the Maryland State Department of Education’s data reporting team is aware of the issue and can handle the data reporting within the parameters set by state and federal agencies.”
The change is critical because it “allows students to be who they really are,” according to Ren Stone, a middle school math teacher at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown.
“It’s really important in terms of affirming students in their identities so they don’t have to lie on documentation with the county about who they are,” Stone said. “When it comes to students, even starting in elementary school, we need to affirm whatever identity they decide they have. This is a step in the right direction.”
In June, MCPS released updated guidelines on how to treat and interact with students who are not cisgender, meaning they do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. The updated guidelines included revised gender identity definitions and added language to encourage LGBTQ clubs.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org