Conference Night

By Sylvie Griffiths:

For most of us parents, conference nights or scheduled parent-teacher conferences can send us into an anxious state. Although we love our kids, we are fully aware that they are not perfect. These face to face interactions are scheduled when there is an issue the educator wishes to discuss with the parent. I regularly attend these throughout the school year for all my four kids. I have come to enjoy them, for the most part, because it’s a beautiful feeling to see that your child’s teacher understands and supports them.

This week my husband and I have had two face to face meetings involving our youngest child at his school. Our move over the summer, before the school year beginning, was directly related to our kids being in better schools and our youngest expressing his identity as a transgender boy. I met with Jake’s school guidance counselor before the year began. This meeting was a special conference my husband, and I agreed we must schedule to explain where Jake was with his gender identity. The interaction with the counselor left me feeling that Jake would be respected and taught like all the other students.

Last week Jake came home and told me that his teacher told him he should not use the boy’s bathroom. He said he felt bad about her comment, so he waited to use the unisex bathroom located in his classroom. This teacher and I had at least three conferences related to his academic struggles in her class this year. She frequently texted me personally to let me know when Jake had an improvement or new conflict. Jake loves this woman, and I had, until his revelation, believed that she had no issues with his gender expression. To say I was devastated, would be an understatement.

Our youngest has used a male designated bathroom for nearly 18 months. Using the male restroom is Jake’s legal right. His teacher has apologized to our son. The principal is now very familiar with our family. The guidance counselor is my point of contact from here out for any problems or struggles Jake is having. I see now that I cannot assume that Jake’s situation will be adequately handled by all school staff. Minimal training is offered at most schools regarding transgender students, and many are not exposed to this at the elementary school level as most kids like Jake are not “out.” It is a person’s right to disclose gender identity, and we allow Jake to talk about his situation with whom he feels comfortable doing so. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. This statistic means these kids will have higher numbers of absences, lower grade point averages, and will be less likely to pursue college.

My husband and I are happy with the quick, efficient manner in which this situation was handled. My Jake came home on cloud nine yesterday after his beloved teacher apologized. He grinned from ear to ear when he said, “I can use the boy’s bathroom whenever I want. She didn’t understand Mommy.” His smile mended several pieces of my heart that shattered when he told me that she denied him access to the boy’s restroom. People learn from their mistakes, and we want people to learn and grow from knowing our special little guy. We must be ready to advocate for our kids when something is not appropriately handled. I do not honestly feel like the school understands why this simple directive was so harmful. Jake will not be the last transgender student they educate. I am thankful he told us and did not keep this bottled up. Any child, with any unique needs, must have encouragement and positivity; whether your child has anxiety, individual learning needs, behavioral issues, sensory processing issues, or autism; just to name a few. I sadly, do not have the same level of confidence in Jake’s school, that I had until last week. The administrative staff apparently does not see what damage might cause. However, I will share some resources with them and wait for more information before we switch Jake’s school for the next year. I can only hope that future students will benefit from our struggle on this matter. This incident is the beginning, we know, of many roadblocks that will fall into Jake’s path. But like all parents who love their kids, we will continue to advocate and support their needs.

Resources:
The National Center for Transgender Equality. Found online at:
https://transequality.org/issues/youth-students

For information on the school rights of students who identify as transgender, Go to https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/schools

About Sylvie Griffiths:

Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.

She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

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