December 8, 2017
Dear Rowland Hall Friends and Families,
As I mentioned in my opening letter this August, our goal at Rowland Hall is to provide a safe and joyful learning environment for children and adults. As part of our long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion, we are actively working to build cultural competence and support each child’s positive identity development. At the same time, we teach students that curiosity, respect, and kindness are not just ideas, but behaviors they can and should practice every day. It is an essential part of our mission.
Welcoming and celebrating diversity in all its forms—such as thought, religion, and race—is key to our goal of an inclusive community. This includes supporting students whose gender identities do not conform with their genders assigned at birth, most commonly communicated as either transgender, gender-expansive, or non-gendered. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, there are currently 150,000 students in grades K-12 nationally who identify as transgender and a growing number of students who identify as gender-expansive or non-gendered.
Historically, gender has often been believed to be apparent from the first ultrasound, fitting into the category of boy or girl. However, modern research shows that gender is determined by individual psychology and emotion, while sex is determined by biological makeup. For some people, biological and psychological identities are the same, and for some they are not.
While institutions like schools have traditionally been built on a gender binary, policies and practices are changing to provide a more equitable experience for students. For example, since 2014 the Utah High School Activities Association has allowed transgender students to participate in gender-segregated sports and activities according to gender identity, rather than sex.
At Rowland Hall, our practice is to work in partnership with students and families to provide support. As appropriate, we will communicate to parents and guardians within a division, grade, or class in support of students. Our teachers, counselors, and staff will continue to receive professional development to build their skills and awareness on this subject.
We firmly believe that valuing and supporting all members of our community not only enhances the learning environment but provides an honest and useful framework for students to understand the complex world they will inherit and lead. Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees fully endorses this position. I welcome all parents and guardians to a forum on Gender Stereotypes and Gender Fluidity in Adolescents 8:30 am Wednesday, February 7, in the Lincoln Street Campus library. Members of the Inclusion and Equity Committee will present on the topic, and we will discuss a current article as well as best practices for our community.
In the meantime, if you have questions or would like to learn more about gender identity as it relates to education, please feel free to contact me or Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education. We hope to make all members of our community feel supported and affirmed.