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Student policy changes set for U-46 board vote

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 is set to vote on changes to its policies under Section 7 (students) at its upcoming meeting on Monday, March 18.
  The policy was discussed at the Monday, March 11 special meeting. Board members Phil Costello and Veronica Noland were absent.
  No substantive changes were proposed to sections 7.010, concerning equal educational opportunities, and 7.020, concerning anti-harassment, but board member Jeanette Ward raised concerns in regards to the districts practices on access to bathrooms and locker rooms as well as athletics.
  The administration admitted these policies will allow students access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex, boys in girls facilities and vice versa, based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
  Regarding athletics, Ward asked if boys could compete with girls in sports “that are appropriately sex-segregated” like boys and girls track teams. U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said that could occur and it would align with Illinois High School Association (IHSA) guidelines.
  Men competing in women’s sports have sparked national debates recently including from former professional tennis player Martina Navratilova who has said she has been treated to “a barrage of quite nasty personal attacks” for questioning the fairness of men competing against women. She wrote on her website: “All I am trying to do is to make sure girls and women who were born female are competing on as level a playing field as possible within their sport.”
  Ward has opposed the districts practices since they were changed in 2016 to allow access to the facilities of the opposite sex.
  “I disagree with a lot that’s in this policy… not that is proposed for the next vote of changes, but there’s enough in here that I disagree strongly with,” Ward said. “I’m not sure that I can vote yes on this document.”
  That discussion stemmed from a discussion on changes to Section 7.063 (school attendance areas) which expands protected classes with regards to establishment of school attendance areas, or boundaries.
  Currently the language includes “race, color, creed, gender, or nationality” but I proposed to expand to “race, color, nationality, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, status as homeless, gender identity, or any other legally protectable category.”
  Another proposed change received supportive comments from the board which would allow athletic opportunities to home school students. That change comes under Section 7.042 (participation in extracurricular activities and athletics).
  The determination for eligibility in extracurricular activities will be made by the CEO/Superintendent with the change which Luis Rodriguez, assistant attorney, said will “allow part-time students to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics subject to certain limitations and a case by case review.”
  Ward asked: “Would it allow say home school students to participate if they take some U-46 public classes?”
  Board member Sue Kerr responded: “They actually wouldn’t even have to take any. They would have to have an approved curriculum that we recognize and have to follow IHSA regulations.”
  Rodriguez and Sanders said that was correct, Sanders saying “it does open up more opportunities to them” and Rodriguez adding: “Prior to that, board policy would not allow that.”
  “That’s a good addition then,” Ward said. “I’m glad to see that.”
  Board member Melissa Owens agreed and thanked the administration for the addition.
  Other changes raised included to Section 7.190 (student conduct) which Rodriguez said includes “additional flexibility when curbing electronic device usage in the schools,” and to Section 7.270 (administering medicines to students) which adds language to require parental notification when procedures are changed.





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