Dear McAuliffe Community,

In the wake of changes to federal guidance regarding rights of transgender students, I find myself reflecting on experiences supporting transgender and gender nonconforming youth who are part of our McAuliffe community. Massachusetts law, regulations, and guidance continue to provide protections for transgender and gender nonconforming students in our state, and McAuliffe’s policies align with these. Yet, McAuliffe’s journey – that resulted in policies to provide a safer, more inclusive learning environment – is one worth sharing:

Brandon, a local transgender rights youth activist, attended McAuliffe for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. It was during his time at McAuliffe that Brandon “found the words to express what I had known and felt for years – I am a boy – who happened to be born in a girl’s body.”

Initially, the school assured Brandon access to the school’s unisex bathrooms. However, through conversations with Brandon and his family, we recognized the school’s responsibility to provide members of our community access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Subsequently, McAuliffe’s Board of Trustees voted to adopt a policy articulating the school’s work with transgender and gender nonconforming students and provide access to facilities based on gender identity.  McAuliffe and Brandon’s work together set up him for success in high school where he continues his journey. Consequently, the school learned how to provide a more safe and inclusive learning environment for all gender nonconforming scholars.

I am proud that the McAuliffe community has built such a welcoming and inclusive culture. We have an active Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) which is led by students and faculty advisors. On a bi-weekly or monthly basis depending on grade level, students choose to attend the GSA meeting to engage in discussions and activities that build understanding, compassion, and support for McAuliffe’s LGBTQ community. Crew is also a place where scholars can ask questions and discuss topics relevant to them. Both Crew and the school’s GSA are integral to building and maintaining the school’s culture.

I’m also aware that parents and guardians have questions:

  • What is talked about during GSA meetings? What is the purpose of a GSA in a middle school?

  • What if I’m not comfortable with my scholar discussing these topics at school?

  • What can I do to help my child’s school be safe and inclusive? What can I do at home?

Next Tuesday, March, 7, 6:30pm, we are providing a space for our community to talk and learn. Experts from the Safe Schools Program will facilitate our time together.

One of the best ways to create an inclusive and safe community for all of our scholars is for adults to have the courage to ask questions and expand understanding of complex topics that directly impact our youth. If you are able to join us next Tuesday for an evening of learning and constructive dialogue, please RSVP at http://www.mcauliffecharter.org/workshops/.

Thank you for reading this portion of McAuliffe’s story and for considering how you may contribute to McAuliffe’s school culture.

Sincerely,

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Kristin Harrison

Executive Director