MANCHESTER, N.H. – A motion to reconsider the vote on the Manchester School District’s new policy regarding transgender students was defeated on Monday night, but not before a minor addition to the new policy was approved.
In a 10-2 vote, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) voted against the reconsideration measure, which was proposed by Arthur Beaudry (Ward 9).
Since the new policy was approved, Beaudry said he has been inundated with calls from concerned parents over the policy, particular in around confusion regarding wording within policy about the role of parents.
Beaudry also noted the school board in Candia, which overturned a comparable policy and replaced it with a more generic policy prohibiting all discrimination, with Beaudry reporting that Candia did not face repercussions on violating a recently passed state law that sparked the effort for Manchester to propose its own new policy.
In addition, he added concerns about potential implications to Title IX, citing an incident last year in Connecticut.
Beaudry was the only member of the BOSC to voice concerns with the policy, with just over half a dozen people concerned about it during public comment, roughly half of those from the public who voiced their support.
Opponents of reconsidering the policy primarily sought to just move on, with James Porter (Ward 1) saying that concerns of cisgender girls being assaulted in locker rooms or bathrooms is a matter to be dealt with, but that it was not connected with the rights of transgender female student rights.
Manchester School District Legal Counsel Kathryn Cox Pelletier responded to Beaudry’s concerns, noting that the case in Connecticut concluded following the end of the Trump administration, also citing initiatives from the Biden Administration regarding the rights of transgender individuals, state and federal laws and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Bostock Case.
Pelletier did recommend the expansion of two portions of the policy regarding privacy, building upon rights to privacy for any student in sections of the policy regarding bathrooms and locker rooms in an attempt to accommodate any students who may not feel comfortable around other students in certain situations.
Pelletier also added that in any case where members of the school district feel a student is in danger, including threats of suicide, action would be taken immediately and the new policy would not interfere with that directive.
James O’Connell (At-Large) spoke against reconsidering the policy, but also opposed the amendments regarding additional privacy, believing that privacy could be abused by certain students. Pelletier responded that the code of conduct within the school’s policies can respond to any situations where students abuse their right of privacy.
In the motion to reconsider, only Beaudry and Joseph Lachance (At-Large) voted in favor. In the motion for the new policy additions, O’Connell voted in opposition as did Beaudry, who noted that he did not support the policy originally. Lachance abstained on the second vote.
Kathleen Kelly-Arnold (Ward 2) and Kelly Thomas (Ward 12) were absent and Dan Bergeron (Ward 6) was unable to figure out how to unmute his phone for both votes.
During the discussion, Bergeron asked how more students could be involved in the deliberation process, a request he has posed frequently during other meetings. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig chided him for repeatedly asking this question in the past without providing any ideas of his own on how to get students to become more engaged on school district topics. As Bergeron interrupted Craig, she noted that students are welcome to participate in public comment or convey their concerns to their student representatives on the BOSC.
Manchester School of Technology BOSC Representative Karena Czzowitz said that a survey on this topic to her fellow students would likely be unsuccessful due to the complexity involved with the policy, but outreach to students is always appreciated.
Bergeron later tried to get his votes, which were not clearly specified, recorded into the record in spite of his technical difficulties. However, School District Clerk Angela Carey indicated that doing so would violate New Hampshire state open meeting law.