Monday’s Pennridge Policy Committee Agenda Includes First Reading Of Revised Bathroom Policy

Local advocates who helped elect the Democratic board majority hope the community will attend and provide in-person support for removing anti-LGBTQ+ bias from the district.

The Pennridge School Board’s Policy Committee is scheduled to convene on Monday at 6:30 p.m., and a first read of revisions to Policy 720 concerning bathroom usage is on the agenda.

The policy was modified by the previous GOP-controlled board in May 2023 to include language targeting those of the LGBTQ+ community, and those modifications are believed to have been influenced by the Independence Law Center, a group known for its bias against gender and sexual diversity.

RIDGE Network, a group of community members from all walks of life that focuses on creating a secure and inclusive setting for all students and teachers, issued an announcement last week to encourage attendance at Monday’s meeting.

“We have all worked so hard to get to this point,” the email says. “Our board needs to know that we haven’t forgotten what we fought so hard for.”

“I want to see what RIDGE Network can do and how we can keep the community mobilized after the election,” Lauren McGee Bradley, one of the co-founders of RIDGE, told the Beacon in November. “I think that’s really important to keep the community engaged. It shouldn’t happen just around elections.”

In the two years following the 2021 election that provided far-right Republicans on the school board a voting majority, the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program was dismantled. Additionally, significant changes targeting the LGBTQ+ community were incorporated and impacted the district’s curriculum and policies.

Ross McLennan of Hilltown, who regularly attends Pennridge school board meetings, frequently provides support for DEI initiatives when making public comment.

“Diversity is a fundamental American principle that is important to American governance,” McLennan told The Beacon. “It generates innovation and collaboration and has been key to the American success story. The education provided with DEI is necessary for all students to thrive not only in the school setting but beyond.”

In 2023, Pennridge voters rejected the GOP’s extreme initiatives at the ballot box and the new Democratic majority is tasked with correcting changes that many believe to be discriminatory.

On March 25, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin advised all school districts across the Commonwealth of state and federal laws that protect all children.

“Over the past few months, schools across the nation have been dealing with highly publicized incidents of hate, violence, and discrimination on their campuses and in their communities,” Mumin wrote. “As such, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is sending you the following information and resources to better support your school community and enhance your awareness of legal requirements promoting discrimination-free and harassment-free environments in the Commonwealth’s schools.”

In addition to state law, Mumin also provided links to federal laws that apply to Pennsylvania public schools, along with information about programs offered by Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission.

- Bucks County Beacon - Monday’s Pennridge Policy Committee Agenda Includes First Reading Of Revised Bathroom Policy

“We are coming up on almost a year of queer children being discriminated against with Policy 720, the anti- LGBTQ+ bathroom use policy which forces trans, non-binary and gender neutral children to out themselves to use the bathroom,” said Laura Foster, a co-founder of RIDGE Network.

Foster describes the impact the “illegal and unenforceable policy” has had on students, teachers and visitors to the district, and she sees revisions to Policy 720 as “the first glimmer of the capacity of this board to do right not just by our queer students but by all of our students.”

READ: Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Pennridge School District

“Monday’s committee meeting is crucial. It’s the first reading of this policy that fights to reverse the past board’s instituted discrimination,” Foster said and added that she believes the GOP board minority is likely to object and protest the proposed changes. “I believe that this could be a hard battle to fight. The eyes of the country and federal courts continue to watch Pennridge.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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