A New Jersey school board has unanimously passed a policy allowing students to use bathrooms and participate in school programs based on their gender identity.
Highland Park schools are the latest district in the Garden State to pass progressive policies for transgender students, and it comes in the wake of controversial bills passed in some states that have passed laws mandating that people use the bathroom that matches their sex at birth.
But school administrators say that their policy goes one step further than others in the region that allow students to pick bathrooms based on their gender identity.
The policy also goes beyond New York City schools' own, which allows students to keep their transgender status confidential in restrooms and lockerroms. Tansgender students in the city can also participate in physical education and sports in accordance with their gender identity, but a student's participation in competetive and contact sports is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Highland Park’s measure allows students to use locker rooms and participate in gendered student activities – such as sports – based upon the gender with which they identify.
“What we’ve heard from students is it just makes this a more welcoming place for them,” said school board president Darci Cimarusti.
Cimarusti said that the measure has been in the works for three months – before North Carolina passed its so-called “bathroom law.”
Mother Lauren Picciano, whose 12-year-old transgender daughter is a student at Highland Park schools, says she welcomes the policy.
“We’re talking about a child, a beautiful child,” she said.
The policy goes into effect Tuesday.