Committee works toward gender inclusivity

FAGEL ‘N FRIENDS: Having a discussion with Lara Cummings, assistant principal for student services, Principal Lauren Fagel spreads awareness for gender inclusivity at a Gender in Schools committee meeting. The committeeís event on April 12 was the first of many that the committee hopes will foster a welcoming environment for all gender identities.

Jacqueline DeWitt

FAGEL ‘N FRIENDS: Having a discussion with Lara Cummings, assistant principal for student services, Principal Lauren Fagel spreads awareness for gender inclusivity at a Gender in Schools committee meeting. The committeeís event on April 12 was the first of many that the committee hopes will foster a welcoming environment for all gender identities.

Sasha Vassilyeva, asst. news editor

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The recently-created Gender in Schools Committee had its first event to educate staff on gender identity on April 12.

According to Principal Lauren Fagel, the creator of the committee, it is made up of 18 staff members, including herself, who will work to educate GBS faculty about gender identity and ways to make students feel safe in the school.

“The goal statement that the committee came up with was to expand our understanding of gender identity, to enhance the safety and security for all students and staff,” Fagel said.

The committee was created when Fagel asked staff volunteers to create professional learning opportunities about the idea of gender identity. For Katrina Prockovic, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsor, joining the committee meant being able to come together with other faculty members for a common cause.

“I think it’s really important that […] the whole community [is] involved in making the school a safe place, from teachers, to students, to parents and this committee is one way to do that,” Prockovic said.

Prockovic believes that having various departments represented in the committee is important and was one of the reasons she wanted to be a part of it.

“This is a huge school, [and the committee is] a way for teachers from all areas of the building to come together […] to make the school a safe, inclusive environment for everyone and to better understand what gender inclusivity is,” Prockovic said.  

The event on April 12 consisted of a 40-minute presentation with multiple speakers who shared different perspectives on the common issue of gender identity in schools, according to Fagel. Speakers included a historical voice, provided by History teacher Matt Whipple, and a teacher voice, presented by English teacher Afrodite Skaouris.

“[Whipple] talked about other times in the history of [GBS] where certain groups of students weren’t necessarily recognized and supported in the same way, and how certain people or adults stepped out in front and made that possible,” Fagel said. “[Skaouris] spoke about her experiences and the email interactions she has had with students about wanting their teachers to know that they identify as a gender different than their sex assigned at birth.”

Another speaker, Lara Cummings, assistant principal for student services, spoke about the support that GBS provides to students, according to Fagel.

“[Cummings] was able to talk to the staff about [what we do here at GBS and what kind of support we provide our students],” Fagel added. “We do let our students use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable in, [and] we do accommodate requests to take a different PE class if that’s what [is] necessary.”

Along with staff presenters, the event included a video clip of a doctor who works in particular with kids who identify as transgender. It also included a few audio clips from high school graduates of GBS and other schools who talked about their personal experiences, which were presented by Prockovic.

Fagel says that the event received positive feedback on social media.

“I’m not on Facebook, but […] people have sent me copies of posts […] with a lot of positive reactions from our staff,” Fagel said. “It was just really meaningful to have the whole staff there and people were really receptive and felt really good about the way it was presented.”

Prockovic enjoyed being able to work with other staff members on this event and having an opportunity to come together with them for a common purpose. She looks forward to working with the committee again in the future.

“I thought it was really cool that this wasn’t something that the school had to do, and I like that instead of being reactive, we, as a community, were being proactive,” Prockovic said.

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