School board approves student trip to China; adopts guidelines for transgender students
FARMINGTON - Mt. Blue school board directors approved a spring field trip proposal to China for a group of high school students and two plans that provide guidelines for staff safety of blood borne pathogens and student transgender integration.
Ruth Haszko, a Spanish and French language teacher at Mt. Blue High School, and Gail Carlson, an American Sign Language interpreter, will be taking seven or eight students to China during April vacation. The school board approved the trip, which was originally proposed for the fall, but time constraints to get everything in place proved too difficult at the time.
The Mt. Blue High School students, who will stay with host families during the nine-day trip to China, have been fund raising this fall and have more activities planned to help pay for the costs. While the students have the responsibility of paying for the roundtrip flight which comes at between $1,200 and $1,300 and other documents such as a passport and visitor visa, the time spent in China will be taken care of by the sponsoring family hosts.
The parents of the traveling students have agreed to pay for the balance of costs not raised through benefit work.
In other matters, a blood borne pathogens exposure control plan was approved by the board after a second review. The plan provides state guidelines to minimize risk to school employees of exposure to such blood borne pathogens as Hepatitis B & C viruses and HIV.
At the first review of guidelines for student transgender integration, some board members had questions for the law firm that help draw up the plan.
The proposed plan encompasses some of the possible situations that could occur in school when addressing the needs of a transgender student and how his or her family and school officials could respond to those incidences. It is noted in the plan that transgender and transitioning students are at a higher risk of being bullied or harassed and "a school's failure to treat students consistent with their gender identity may create a hostile environment."
At Tuesday's meeting, Superintendent Thomas Ward said Drummond Woodsum attorneys responded to the directors' queries by advising that federal funding the district receives was not dependent on approval of the guidelines, but the district is required to follow non-discriminatory state and federal laws.
Director Nancy Crosby of Weld asked again what would happen if an 18-year-old student, whom she noted is legally an adult, "exposes themselves to other students" in a locker room situation. If a student, whatever the age, acts in lewd or inappropriate manner to another student there is a code of conduct in place and the school administration will "deal with it," Ward said.
Directors approved adopting the plan with 12 in favor and two directors, Crosby and Keith Swett of Wilton opposed.