Colts Neck BOE tries to rush an anti-trans proposal through without discussion

Transgender support was evident at Colts Neck Board of Education meeting.
Transgender support was evident at Colts Neck Board of Education meeting. All photos by Lana Leonard.

Colts Neck Board of Education members voted to push their first proposed revision to policy “P5756 — Transgender Students” into committee at Wednesday night’s Colts Neck Board of Education meeting. The policy changes, as proposed, would require school staff to notify parents of student’s gender identity, and require segregated bathrooms for trans and gender diverse students.

The proposed revisions violate the standing policy, which states: “The school district shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required. A student need not meet any threshold diagnosis or treatment requirements to have his or her gender identity recognized and respected by the school district, school, or school staff members.”  

The Board must operate under New Jersey guidelines statewide and within the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The public didn’t have access to the proposed revisions until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, just hours before the meeting. However, the item was on the agenda and was available on February 17, 2023. Board President Heather Tormey confirmed a motion was passed to expedite the review of the policy revision regarding gender identity in a February 8, 2023 meeting.

“A mindful and thoughtful process occurred and due diligence was made on part of the administration to submit as per the board’s motion,” Tormey told citizens Wednesday night. However, other board members didn’t feel expediting the review was fair. 

“Haste makes waste, and though you think you’re doing the constituents a favor by treating this like an emergency — I’m referring to the policy committee — you could be lining them and this district up for potential lawsuits and problems,” said Board Member Brenna Dillon before the policy vote.

“This went through the exact process. Sure, often it takes much longer, but every step that I just said was completed,” protested Board Member John Camera, who is on the policy committee.

While the Feb. 8 meeting minutes were unavailable, the Jan. 25 minutes show that Camera requested direction from the Board in regards to non-disclosure to parents about gender identity. Camera ran on the “Colts Kids First” ticket this past midterm election. He and Board Member Jessica Ramirez ran on the ticket “Parents Rights in Education.” The group works to change any policy that is transgender inclusive say LGBTQ activists. 

In response to the agenda item, approximately 100 people stood in solidarity with trans students in the Colts Neck Elementary School cafeteria. “I don’t understand why this happened the way it did. The normal process, and it’s by policy, for issues to go to committee,” said Jacquelyn Hoagland, a former board of education member and 21-year resident of Colts Neck.

Madison Boylan, is an 18-year-old trans student in Atlantic Highlands. She socially transitioned at 10-years-old with both bathroom and locker room privileges. She says that the proposed policy change is “sinister.”

“The reason I was allowed to use the girl’s bathroom is not because I like the pink tile, but because it’s where I felt safer,” said Boylan. “You have no right to do this, and we’ve even been provided guidance from the state not to do this,” she continued. 

New Jersey is one of 20 states with full LGBTQ protections, and in 2018 became the 11th state in the nation to issue guidance on transgender students to schools intended to promote a safe and successful learning environment. 

“Why any adult would seek to pass a policy that could potentially harm children is unfathomable,” said Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality. “The safety of children should always be a top priority, especially for Board of Education members. Putting aside costing Colts Neck taxpayers’ money in potential litigation for violating state law, I am thankful that members of the board voted against this policy.”