Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

Reporting with Hills Pride

The Trailblazer

First Reading of the PVRHSD’s Transgender Policy

PVRHSD Board of Education meeting on 4/4/16 | Photo by Olivia Bulzomi

On April 4 at 4 p.m., the Pascack Valley Regional High School District held the first reading of Policy 5756, which addresses the rights and inclusion of transgender students in the Pascack Valley community. A second reading will be held on Mon., April 11 at 7:30 p.m. The Board of Education concluded with a vote which consisted of one no, one abstain, and seven yes’s.


The reading revolved around comments from various community members, from students to teachers to parents. Both sides of the argument were present and voiced. Among the commentators were members of the transgender community, anti-discrimination groups, religious communities, conservative interest groups, and other school districts. Parents, students, and teachers in the PVRHSD were also present to voice their opinions.


President of the Pascack Hills student body, Jonathan Levin, spoke at the podium about his support of the policy. In a pre-written statement, Levin said that, “Pascack Valley has always fought to maintain its status as a safe place for people of all nationalities, genders, religions, etc. As school president this past year, I always tried to make sure people respected this basic principle. Why do we argue today when a policy that serves to promote these same goals is brought before the district?”


Pascack Hills Senior Jamie Spelling offered similar thoughts on the culture of Pascack Hills saying, “Pascack Hills has allowed me to be the person that I want to be. I’ve been so lucky that the school has been able to foster the person that I am and they should be able to do that for anybody.”


Other members of the Pascack Hills community who expressed their opinions of the proposed policy included Mr. Ryan Postman, Ayo Ouhuru, and several parents.


Postman, who teaches geometry, AP Statistics, and AB Calculus at Pascack Hills High School, conveyed his concern for the well-being of the student population at Hills, stating that he wants to “make sure the students feel supported in any way.” He then addressed the front rows, where many Hills students were sitting, and said, “Teachers here are supportive of you. We’re here for you guys.”  


Tatiana Gallardo, Vice President of Pascack Hills High School, noted that due to the opinions expressed at the meeting, her own has been changed. She said “The bravery of the transgender students of our district who spoke up tonight was incredible. It is because of their courage that I am now fully supportive of this policy.”


However, she also voiced her reservations about the policy. “It’s a tricky subject,” she said. “By allowing the transgender students to go to the bathroom and locker room of their gender identity, it in turn infringes upon the privacy and comfort of those who are cisgender.”


An opinion that wasn’t voiced at last week’s information session about the policy on March 29 was that of The Rev. Marc A. Stutzel, a pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in Woodcliff Lake. As a member of the Christian community, he stated that, “Jesus didn’t call his disciples to agree with each other. Instead, Jesus called us to love one another – and to express his love, welcome, and protection to everyone we meet.” In addition to this, Stutzel has also served “alongside pastors, deacons, and others who are openly transgender.”


This opinion from religious leaders isn’t often voiced, but Stutzel made it clear that “God’s love isn’t afraid of differences but instead sees the dignity inside each person. The proposed policy on gender identity sees that dignity that all students have. This policy allows every child to be the student God is calling them to be. We ask students to spend their time in high school growing so that they can become intelligent, honest, and loving people. If a student is discriminated against because of their gender identity, we take away their opportunity to engage fully in this calling. By affirming the gender identity of each student, the proposed policy helps all students be the person they are called to be.”


Many members of Pascack Valley also spoke, most notably current students who identify as transgender, as well as representatives from Valley’s Human Rights League. The Human Rights League, well-known for their letter in Pascack Valley’s newspaper, The Smoke Signal, about the prevalence of white supremacy in the school, were in favor of the policy on the grounds that discrimination is an encroachment on human rights. They spoke not on the behalf of the transgender students at Valley, but from the silent students who are in favor of the policy being passed.


Hannah Simpson, a member of the transgender community and graduate of Pascack Valley High School, spoke about her experience without this policy in place. Although her family was accepting of her identity, she expressed that at times, she feared she would have to transfer schools because she didn’t feel welcome in the community. Simpson stated, “Acceptance should be the expectation,” a feature the Pascack Valley community prides itself on. She also offered a Q&A session at the Hillsdale Ambulance Corps to address any questions or concerns audience members might have had.


Both Pascack Hills Principal Mr. Glenn DeMarrais and Assistant Principal Mr. Tim Wieland agreed that since many schools have passed policies like this one, that “we are not the leader in this venue.” Schools like Northern Highlands Regional High School and Mahwah High School have also passed policies similar to the one currently being proposed in the PVRHSD.


The Trailblazer is awaiting comments from organizations in opposition of the policy.


To read more about the information session on March 29, click here.


The full policy can be found here.


Please email commentary to [email protected]


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