Colts Neck Board of Education Rejects Transphobic Policy Revisions


Joshua Ricatti

Transgender students and activists scored a victory on Wednesday, February 22, when the Colts Neck Board of Education rejected policy revisions that critics argued would put trans students at risk and violate state law. The Board voted 7-2 against adopting them. 


The two who voted in favor of the revisions, John Camera and Jessica Ramirez, are newly-elected Board members who campaigned under the “Colts Neck Kids First” slogan. During the campaign, they were endorsed by the New Jersey Project, a conservative group originally founded by two mothers frustrated over school COVID-19 policies and now rails against supposedly “woke” ideology. 151 school board members elected last election cycle were endorsed by this group.


The Colts Neck School District is one of many districts in New Jersey that abides by the Department of Education’s 2018 Transgender Guidance for School Districts. Many districts, including Colts Neck, list this as policy number 5756. It is designed to create a safe and supportive environment for trans students. Among other things, this includes respecting a student’s gender identity regardless of parental approval or medical history, offering emotional support services for trans students, and preventing bullying and discrimination by both students and school officials. Colts Neck had put in place a transgender student policy in 2015 but revised it in 2019 in accordance with the Department of Education’s guidelines.


“The intended purpose of this guidance is to help school and district administrators take steps to create an inclusive environment in which transgender and gender nonconforming students feel safe and supported, and to ensure that each school provides equal educational opportunities for all students,” states the Department of Education’s guidance.


The guidelines from the Department of Education are only recommendations to schools, not requirements. School districts are free to revise them however they want. Some, like the South Orange-Maplewood School District, have revised them to be more stringent and inclusive. But on Wednesday, members of Colts Neck’s Board of Education proposed revisions that would have jeopardized trans students’ well-being and privacy.


One revision to the district’s transgender policy would segregate bathrooms and locker rooms based on biological sex instead of gender identity to “prevent the exposure of genitalia of the opposite sex.” This would forbid trans and gender-nonconforming students from using facilities that correspond with their identity. Access to unisex facilities and the nurse’s restroom would remain open. However, gender-neutral facilities are scarce if not nonexistent in schools, while there is typically only one toilet in the nurse’s office and could make trips to the bathroom unnecessarily long. Forcing students to use facilities that don’t correspond to their identity harms their mental health and invalidates them. They could also be subjected to bullying in a setting where there’s little to no supervision and bullying is often at its most extreme.


Another revision would give schools the “affirmative duty” to inform a student’s parents of their child’s gender identity or expression. So if a student came out as trans to their teacher or counselor, that teacher or counselor would be forced to tell their parents. The student would have no say in the matter. Unfortunately, many parents don’t respect non-cisgender identity. Also, students go to their teachers and counselors seeking emotional support that they are too afraid to ask for at home. Requiring schools to out their trans students is a flagrant violation of their privacy. It would breed distrust between students and staff, making students less likely to seek emotional support in school and more likely to suffer from mental illness.

Both these actions would threaten the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming students. However, its advocates claim that they want to keep parents involved in their children’s lives and to protect children from inappropriate sexual encounters and a radical, gender-critical agenda pushed by educators onto students.

The truth is that there’s no evidence to suggest trans people are any more predatory or threatening than cis people, and the supposed “radical agenda” being pushed by teachers simply does not exist. This kind of transphobic rhetoric serves only to increase violence, bullying, and hate against trans people. “Protecting our kids” is a clever but thinly veiled motto used to hide hate behind genuine concern. It’s been used throughout history to paint black people, immigrants, and homosexuals as dangerous and perverted. Now it’s used to target transgender people.

“Why any adult would seek to pass a policy that could potentially harm children is unfathomable,” said Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality. “The safety of children should always be a top priority, especially for Board of Education members.”


These revisions were last-minute additions to the Board meeting agenda. Camera did not introduce a final version of the revised policy until Tuesday, and they were not made public until a few hours before the meeting.

Dozens of parents, school staff, and community members attended the Board meeting on Wednesday to argue for and against the proposed revisions.


On one side of the debate was Justin Ramirez, a parent who argued these were “common-sense changes to the transgender policy” and that “we must start from the premise that parents are best suited” to deal with their children’s personal issues. He added that the current policy only serves to “indoctrinate kids in a gender theory that confuses and harms them.” This generated lots of booing and jeering from other meeting attendees.

Another parent, James Pizzillo, said, “We deserve to know what our children are doing in school… They are children. Since when do they know what they want? It is pretty cut and dry, men use the men’s room and women use the women’s room.”

On the other side of the debate was an eighteen-year-old transgender woman from Atlantic Highlands named Madison Boylan. “I’m disgusted and horrified that you want to not only out students to their parents, but reduce accommodations for bathroom and locker use.,” she said. Boylan began transitioning when she was ten.

Another parent, Matt Jenkins, observed, “transgender people are the new punching bag. The adverse effects are dead children.”

Concerns by those opposed to the revisions weren’t just over the regression in trans rights and protections. Board Member Brenda Dillon expressed worries that the revisions would violate state law and lead to an avalanche of lawsuits.

When the arguing subsided, the Board held a vote on whether or not the revised policy would go into committee. With a 7-2 vote, the motion failed and the unedited policy was upheld.


“I am thankful that members of the board voted against this policy,” Fuscarino said.