Broken Arrow school board revises ‘bathroom bill’ policy


By Brittany Harlow

The Broken Arrow Board of Education voted Monday to approve revisions to its bathroom gender policy and several other policies.

Pursuant to State Bill 615 the BAPS adopted a policy last August on “use of multiple occupancy restrooms and changing areas,” which required each multi-occupancy restroom and changing area located in public schools serving pre-K through 12th grade be designated as either for the exclusive use of the male sex or for the exclusive use of the female sex.

The approved revision to Policy 4265 states that individuals shall now be disciplined by the district for refusing to designate multiple occupancy restrooms or changing areas for the exclusive use of one sex as defined by the current policy.

Both the SB 615 and Policy 4265 defines “sex” as the physical condition of being male or female based on genetics and physiology, as identified on the individual’s original birth certificate. School districts that do not comply with SB 615 face a 5% decrease in state funding.

SB 615 says students who don’t want to comply have to be offered “reasonable accommodation” which BAPS Policy 4265 addresses by requiring the district to provide them access to “a single-occupancy restroom or changing room.”

Opponents of the state’s so-called “bathroom bill” say those accommodations often fall short. The ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in September to overturn SB 615 on behalf of three transgender students in the Oklahoma City area, citing concerns that transgender who are excluded from multiple occupancy restrooms often avoid using the restroom at all.

The lawsuit states “permitting boys and girls who are transgender to simply exist as who they are, and treating them the same as any other boy or girl, harms no one, and it is the only way that students who are transgender can equally participate in education, employment, and society at large”.

Policy 4265’s revision is part of the BAPS Policy Council’s ongoing review of the entire Board of Education Policy Guide. The council is divided into subcommittees, each reviewing different areas of policy.

Broken Arrow community members who want to provide their thoughts on the adoptions, revisions, and deletions of policies during their first and second readings can sign up before Regular Board meetings begin to do so.

There was no comment on Policy 4265 or the other 19 policy revisions and adoptions that were approved during Monday’s board meeting.

Other policy changes approved include:

* Policy 3000 revision to have AIDS instruction taught in grades 6, 8, and 10 instead of grades 6-12, and removes the requirement that nurses and teachers who teach AIDS prevention education receive adequate training from health department personnel and/or private medical sources beforehand.

* The addition of Policy 3095 requiring an annual program including information and training regarding dysgraphia (impairment of handwriting) beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.

* A Policy 3260 revision to have sex education taught to all students in grades 6-12, instead of just grades 7, 9 and 10, as well as age-appropriate evidence-based suicide awareness and prevention curriculum to students in grades 7, 9, and 11.

‘Safety of our kids’

Concerns about bullying at the Broken Arrow Freshman Academy surfaced back in February when students organized a small protest. Some of the concerns led to the school district and parents having a special meeting to discuss the issues.

Another parent spoke Monday at the BAPS for 3 minutes about bullying problems his son is experiencing in school.

“What I want to talk to you about is the mental and emotional safety of our kids,” Josh Coats said. “My oldest son, who is a senior now, during his eighth-grade year, was called a school shooter every day, because he wore a black hoodie.”

Coats went on to say his son was bullied so badly, he elected to be home-schooled for the last 3 years.

John Coats speaks to members of the Broken Arrow Board of Education Monday.

“Now as a senior, he doesn’t want to be at school,” Coats said. “He shows up every day, doesn’t get very good grades, which sucks because he is 100 times smarter than me.”

Coats said he now also has a freshman daughter who is dealing with the same thing.

“And we’re being told that there’s not a problem,” Coats said. “We’re being told that there have been some new things put in place that have fixed the problems but I get phone calls two or three times a week from the counselor’s office that they’re saying that there’s still problems.”

Since Coats’ comments were made during the “Comments From The Public” portion of the meeting, board members were not permitted to interact in any follow-up dialogue afterward.

BAPS Chief Communications Officer Tara Thompson said the board typically follows up with people who provide comments about non-agenda items on a later date. She said bullying is an issue at BAPS, as it is in every school district.

“With 20,000 students it’s something that we’re always combating,” Thompson said. “We’re constantly looking at ways to be better at that.”

Thompson said efforts include a recent “Breaking Down The Walls” training held at the Freshman Academy to promote awareness of bullying and its harmful effects.

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