The City Council unanimously passed a resolution tonight calling on the Baltimore City school board to adopt a policy allowing trans students to use their preferred pronouns, access the bathrooms that align with their gender and update school records to reflect their gender.
The proposal, known as Policy JBB, would update Baltimore City Public Schools’ policy on sexual harassment to reflect a broader range of sex-based discrimination, establishing clear rights for transgender and gender non-conforming students.
City Councilman Zeke Cohen (1st District), the sponsor of the resolution, said on the floor that he met with both a transgender teacher and student who described a climate of harassment.
Cohen said the student contemplated suicide, and told him, “Councilman, we just want to be seen.”
“This policy is a step in the right direction toward letting our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and siblings know that they are not only seen, but loved,” Cohen said.
Jabari Lyles, the former head of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland who now serves as LGBTQ affairs liaison for Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office, helped draft the resolution.
“The dignity and safety of a young person should never be up for debate. As one of the largest school districts in our country, this is our chance to lead the vision for safe and inclusive schools,” Lyles said in a statement.
According to a 2017 report by GLSEN, 54 percent of transgender students in Maryland said they were denied access the restroom aligned their gender, and 48 percent could not use their preferred name or pronouns. Only 18 percent of respondents said they attended a school that had a comprehensive policy to address bullying or harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
In a release, Cohen’s office cited a 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that shows Baltimore has nearly twice as many students identifying as LGBTQ as the rest of the state.
The school board will hear public testimony on the policy at its April 2 meeting and vote on Policy JBB on April 9.
On the floor, Cohen also said he is planning to introduce legislation to make all single-stall restrooms in the city gender-neutral.