Published November 12, 2015 by Emory Bryan (NewsOn6)
TULSA, OK – Tulsa Public Schools is adopting new guidelines reflecting civil rights advances for transgender students and faculty.
The changes have been under development for months, but the district only acknowledged Tuesday that sensitivity training was about to begin for all staff, starting with administrators.
TPS did not immediately make anyone available to discuss the training or how the transgender support policies will be implemented in the schools. There has been no public notification or discussion of the impending changes, but News On 6 has learned the district will have a mass training session next Monday afternoon for 150 administrators, led by an attorney and an OSU psychologist.
The teachers union was aware of the training, but Patti Ferguson-Palmer with the Tulsa Classroom Teachers said, “We have honestly not heard from anyone with concerns about this.”
The training was first acknowledged in a written statement a spokesperson said was developed by several top administrators.
That statement says “This month, we will hold a training for TPS school administrators on best practices to support gender nonconforming and transgender youth. School leaders will bring these best practices and guidelines back to their respective sites. As with any other area of development and growth in the district, we will continue to revise guidance and train staff to ensure that all TPS students are getting the supports that they need to succeed.”
The district said the sessions for administrators will be led by Dr. Al Carlozzi of Oklahoma State University, and Karen Long, an attorney with Rosenstein Fist & Ringold.
Dr. Carlozzi heads the Department of Counseling Psychology at OSU Tulsa and Long works for the law firm that represents many Oklahoma school districts.
Dr. Carlozzi said he has often led training sessions like the one he’s planning for Tulsa Public Schools, and said while he’s not aware of any suburban schools taking the same steps, he’s confident they will with time, in light of recent decisions from the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education. He estimated 1 in 1,000 students is transgender. TPS reports it has approximately 42,000 students.
“I think the rights of transgender people are being affirmed at this point primarily at the federal level, though a lot of state level groups are clarifying their rules” said Carlozzi.
“My job is to educate and open minds, to the transgender experience and the concerns that parents have, to make sure their child’s rights and well being are being protected in schools.”
Carlozzi said bathroom issues are typically sensitive areas that arise first and that “the most current thinking is that people should be able to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. The law seems to be moving in that direction.” He said deciding where transgender children should use the restroom is made into a bigger issue than it should because of suspicion that other children would be exposed to danger in the bathroom, when more commonly, the danger is to the transgender person.
In September, the district added gender expression and gender identity to the anti-bullying policy, through a revision to a nondiscrimination clause.Follow @FortySixNews