Despite expressing their support at a previous meeting, the majority of the Howell Township Board of Education have now voted to repeal the district’s transgender policy.
According to the state’s policy, guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education accepts a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required.
Currently, Howell Public Schools follow the state’s transgender student guidance. The policy prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Additionally, staff members are not required to notify a student’s parent or guardian if a student changes gender identity or expression.
Howell Public Schools has now joined other districts throughout Monmouth County who have made the decision to reject Policy 5756.
Superintendent Joseph Isola had voiced support for keeping the policy at the August meeting, and upheld his opinion at the September meeting. However, some board members who had previously decided against any changes have now altered their opinion.
“One of the main points being addressed here is outing students, parental notification. If we do abolish this policy, it does not make it mandatory for parents to be notified. It’s still going to be the way it is,” board member Joseph Mauer said. “Personally, I do not believe we need this exclusive policy. Not only are there laws in the state already protecting transgender students against discrimination, but this district has other policies in place to safeguard all students.”
Mauer further went on to explain that no one on the board is anti-trans. “There is no hate here. This is not us versus you, it’s us versus government overreach.”
“As stated last month, when I took my office as we all did, our job overall as a board is policy making and also to ensure that every child gets what they need,” board member Dr. Denise Lowe said. “There was no problem with the policy when we had it, whether it’s mandated or not…I am still where I was last month not wavering because that’s what’s best for kids. I want to make sure every child is safe and gets what they need.”
During the public comment, many residents expressed numerous different opinions. Many claimed that the policy is important as it protects transgender students. While others stated how it’s their right to know as a parent when their child identifies as a different gender.
Afterwards, a motion was made to repeal the policy. Board President Albert Miller, Board Vice-President Cristy Mangano, Joseph Mauer, Ira Thor, and Alexandria Langenberger all voted yes to repeal. While Dr. Stephen Levine, Dr. Denise M. Lowe, MaryRose Malley, and Jennifer Okerson voted no.
Although the board ultimately voted to repeal, the policy remains in place for now as the board is required to take a second, and final vote.