School transgender guidelines implemented smoothly

KAPAA — At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, new transgender policies were put into place for Hawaii’s students.

At the halfway point of the school year, Complex-Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki said the guidelines have been implemented smoothly.

The guidelines offer transgender students alternative bathroom, as well as uniform and locker room arrangements, that correspond with their gender identity and expression. School nurses’ bathrooms also became an option for transgender or non-transgender students, whoever feels uncomfortable changing in the locker room.

The guidelines also allow students to wear any style of clothing that he/she feels associates with their gender.

“Our students have been great,” Arakaki told The Garden Island. “They really understand their classmates and what they’re going through and they really work together on campus. The community and students accept their peers and what each person says. We’re in Hawaii; we’re in a melting pot.”

The intent of the guidelines was to provide guidance for schools to create a safe environment for students, regardless of gender identification, say officials.

“For students who are transgender, we need to understand what they are going through,” Arakaki said. “How do we better support them? We talk with them, work with them. We want them to succeed just like any other student.”

Meetings were held with Kauai’s principals in October to discuss the issue. In the first year of implementation, there is still a lot to learn, Arakaki said.

“Our schools are doing a great job, in terms of each individual,” he said. “They know their students and have relationships with them. And at the school level, we respect their right to confidentiality with their gender and expression.”

Kapaa High School Principal Daniel Hamada reported no problems within the student body regarding transgender students.

“I don’t have any complaints from the kids in terms of gender identity or their expressions,” Hamada said. “They really treat each other well.”

Respect is a two-way street for students at Kapaa High, Hamada said. And no student’s situation is the same. For transgender students, everything is individualized in a one-on-one session with a counselor or vice-principal.

Building relationships with these students and creating an open dialogue have gone a long way to resolving issues.

“It may be boring for you, but today’s kids know what’s going on. Being an island community, people grow up with each other,” Hamada said. “There’s some type of interconnection, sometimes an extended ohana, and they can see that. They’re just kids. They’re just treating each other how they want to be treated.”

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