Old Bridge Board of Education will keep the 5756 transgender policy in place

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David Cittadino
David Cittadino is the Old Bridge school superintendent.

This is a safe space for our students,” Superintendent David Cittadino told Out In Jersey.

The Old Bridge school board joins Asbury Park schools, among other such districts as Neptune Township and Roxbury Township, in reasserting their support for transgender students and all students by voting in favor of the Transgender Policy 5756.

The Old Bridge school board voted 4-3 in support of the policy with one abstention and another absent, according to an NJ Insider news piece. While the vote was close, the elected leaders of Old Bridge chose to focus on administrators’ and teachers’ willingness to “accept a student’s asserted gender identity; parental consent is not required,” this being one detail “parents’ rights” activists don’t take too kindly to in the policy. However, school officials disagree.

“5756 simply says that there is no affirmative duty for the teacher, or whatever School employee, to proactively make that call based on any discussion that is had [with a student],” library attorney Christopher B. Parton said at the November meeting. “If it becomes a record — if there is a name change in any student records — all parents and legal guardians immediately have that access,” Parton continued.

Board of education member Jennifer D’Antuono brought up self-exploration and discovery as a universal experience among youth in schools.

“I was a teenager. I know I changed my clothes at the bus stop, I put on lipstick, I listened to music my parents might not have liked; maybe I read a book that wasn’t the right genre my parents wanted. We all went through some kind of self-discovery — that’s what teenagers do,” D’Antuono said.

With that in mind, Gov. Chris Christie implemented the 5756 policy in 2017. He did so with years of research and best practices for helping LGBTQ students, in this case particularly transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming students.

The public education assault on LGBTQ students humanity goes against not just statewide best practices, but global best practices for communities of different gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual characteristics too.

For instance, Christine Hamlet — a teacher who “as a Black, transgender woman proudly served” as a classroom teacher, school counselor, and retired from the largest school district in the state, Newark Public Schools, as an administrator — invokes the Yogyakarta Principles in a statement to Out In Jersey. The international rights community adopted these principles in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2007 to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and identity.

“I applaud the 28 Yogyakarta Principles because they are the bulwark of human recognition that discriminatory practices are wrong-headed and only seek to harass, deny, and subjugate others,” writes Hamlet.

To Hamlet, school boards looking to discriminate against transgender children and ban books are doing so purposely, but Hamlet makes clear that the law is on the side of humanity.

“Likewise, the United States Educational Laws, State of New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination, and the American Library Association Policy on Human Rights have confirmed and affirmed these values by clearly stating ‘that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services,’” Hamlet continued.

Regardless, many schools throughout the state from Colts Neck to Hanover have decided to revoke the best-practices policy. The policy is not mandatory by law, as found in a court case earlier this year specific to a mandate in Hanover Township in Morris County. This ruling allowed staff and teachers in New Jersey school districts to identify LGBTQ students and out these students to their families.

Yet, Old Bridge Superintendent Cittadino reminded that there is no reason to touch a policy that has only helped students’ sense of safety.

“As I was asked at the meeting by a member of the public, since this policy has been in place we have not had any issues, and the students that I have talked to feel that this is a safe space for our students,” Cittadino told Out In Jersey.

Lana Leonard
Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.