August 5, 2016

Why is this Bad Policy?

The policy adopted by the Great Hearts Board of Directors fails on three main fronts:

  1. This policy fails at a fundamental level to ensure the civil rights of all students as protected by Title IX of the Federal code and the Constitution of the United States.
  2. The policy fails to meet the standards of Great Hearts own mission and vision it has set for its schools.
  3. The policy fails to create a safe environment, free of harassment, bullying, and prejudice for a specific population of its students.

On Title IX and Civil Rights

The first assumption of the Great Hearts policy states, “That the recognition of any distinction between ‘gender identity’ and biological sex is not yet a matter of settled law in the United States.

The United States Department of Justice disagrees.

Title IX was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It insures that no student, “be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” on the basis of sex, color, race, religion, or national origin.

In May 2016, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice sent a letter to clarify their position on the obligations educational institutions have under Title IX.

“The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity. The Departments’ interpretation is consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”

Great Hearts policy on transgender students defines sex as, “an individual’s biological classification as male or female at the time of birth and as recorded on their official state-issued birth certificate.”

The policy makes no provision for a student’s gender identity. The policy fails to recognize the distinction between sex and gender identity. This distinction is a requirement of Title IX.

>>>Related: Why not just change the birth certificate?

The policy goes on to dictate what a transgender student must wear, how the hair must be cut, in which gendered activities one must participate. The policy states that incorrect pronouns may be used. It states requirements on bathroom facilities. All requirements of the policy are tied directly to the biological sex on a student’s birth certificate.

This, however, is what sets transgender people apart. Their biological sex is not aligned with their gender identity. Ignoring this basic fact is to disregard the existence of transgender people.

To deny a person their gender identity, simply because it does not align with their biological sex is discriminatory. It sets standards for one population of students which is different for another population of students.

Great Hearts ought not dictate that a transgender girl must always wear pants any more than they ought dictate that a non-transgender girl must shave her head. While the school has a right to define a dress code, the students have a right to define their gender identity. This right is protected by Title IX.

On the Mission and Vision of Great Hearts

Great Hearts academies prides itself on developing the minds of each student. In a letter to parents, Erik Twist, President of Great Hearts Arizona says that his goal is to create students who will be, “leaders in creating a more philosophical, humane, and just society.”

It is difficult to understand how a humane and just society can be created when the some of the students are marginalized.

Great Hearts academies prides itself on promoting a classical liberal arts education. From Teleos Preparatory Academy, “…liberal education is the most noble pursuit available to a citizen of a free society that has institutionalized the values of individual freedom, free speech, and free elections.”

Agreed. However, how can one justify promoting individualized freedom when a student policy fails to recognize the importance of a critical component of the individual? By failing to recognize the importance of a student’s gender identity, Great Hearts fails to foster this core piece of their philosophy.

Great Hearts academies prides itself on creating a safe and secure environment for its students. From the non-discrimination policy of North Phoenix Preparatory Academy, “North Phoenix Preparatory Academy is a not-for-profit, publicly-funded charter school and does not discriminate in its enrollment or hiring practices on the basis of gender, race, religion, national origin or disability.”

Yes. They do.

On a Bully Free Environment

The Great Hearts Policy on Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying of Students states, “Archway Classical Academy prohibits acts of harassment, intimidation or bullying of students.” Period. It is the first line of the anti-bullying policy.

This is in direct conflict with their policy on transgender students. By failing to recognize a person’s gender identity, and to then make demands that teachers, staff, and administrators force opposite gender standards to a transgender student, the school is, by definition, harassing, intimidating, and bullying their own students.

This in turn creates an environment where it is presumed acceptable to disregard a particular student’s dignity. This then erodes the student’s sense of self worth, of self-esteem. This creates a toxic environment where the student is severely hindered, crippled by the schools unwillingness to accept the student for who they are.

This is never acceptable.