Bermudian Springs tables bathroom policy decision until after elections

The Bermudian Springs school board tabled a hotly-debated proposed bathroom policy after hearing from proponents from both sides of the argument on Monday and Tuesday evening.

During the three-hour-long caucus meeting, several area residents voiced concerns about the proposed policy, “Policy 711: Use of Facilities by Students.” The proposed policy defines facilities as: “Any restroom, locker room, or shower located on district property that allows for an individual to be in a state of undress.”

If passed, the policy would see the schools offer facilities for students based on their sex assigned at birth, for students according to their gender identity, and single-user rooms for any students who choose to use them.

During the caucus meeting on Monday, one individual opposed the policy, saying the district should save money on signage and have students use the restroom that matches their biological sex.

Others also opposed the policy but for different reasons, concerned that it singles out transgender or nonbinary students, may cause students’ gender identity to be revealed even in cases where students are uncomfortable, could open the district to lawsuits, and other concerns.

Some of the same individuals approached the board again during its regular meeting on Tuesday night. Most opposed the policy, with one individual appearing to argue for it.

While the board had debated the policy on Monday evening, by the regular meeting on Tuesday it voted to table the decision.

Board member Jennifer Goldhahn, who has voiced support for the policy, asked to table it until after a new board is sworn in during the meeting in December. Goldhahn said delaying the vote would allow new board members to have a voice in the decision, and allow voters who elect the board members to have influence in the ultimate decision.

The board voted to table the policy until after the new board is sworn in.

During the caucus meeting, superintendent Shane Hotchkiss explained what the policy would look like if approved.

In each building, multi-stall restrooms would be marked as “girls’ inclusive” or “boys’ inclusive” to allow for students to choose the facility that aligns with their gender identity. Other restrooms in the buildings would be for use based on sex assigned at birth or a single-user restroom.

According to Hotchkiss, the district had already ordered new signs for the facilities ahead of the meetings in case the policies were approved.

Hotchkiss said students already receive accommodations if requested and staff will continue to work with students to ensure they have access to accommodations.

“Part of our responsibility and something we take very seriously is to make sure we’re trying to meet the needs of all kids, and some of that is accommodations,” Hotchkiss said during the caucus meeting.

Girls’ wrestling

Jon DeFoe, principal of Bermudian Springs High School, asked the board for permission to gather information about interest in a girls’ wrestling program.

“In the past, girls could always compete in wrestling, but they did so through the boy’s program,” DeFoe said. “In the past 10-12 months, there was a push to add girls’ wrestling as a sanctioned sport in the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) and they needed 100 schools to adopt girls’ wrestling before the PIAA would even recognize it. So that’s a lot of what you’ve seen in the news and the media about different schools adopting and starting a girls’ wrestling program.”

With that threshold reached and girls’ wrestling now PIAA-recognized, DeFoe told the board he would like to see if there is interest in establishing a girls’ wrestling team.

Depending on the response, DeFoe said a team could be added as soon as the 2024-25 school year.

DeFoe promised to update the board after obtaining more information on student interest.

Personnel

On Tuesday, the board accepted the resignation of Jennifer Eley, principal of Bermudian Springs Elementary School.

Eley will resign on Dec. 22, with the last day in the office on Nov. 3.

Ethan Sentz, the current assistant principal of the elementary school, will become the acting principal on Nov. 6. On that same day, Ryan Murphy, a teacher at the middle school, will fill Sentz’ role as acting elementary school assistant principal.

The board also approved curriculum leads and extracurricular contracts.

Honors and recognition

On Tuesday, two students gave a presentation on their performance in a statewide business competition, Dream-Learn-Pitch, during the 2022-23 school year.

Led by teacher Sarah Smith, the students told the board about their process of creating a business concept, business plan and pitch for a theoretical app, ClassFlow, they designed intended to improve student focus and wellness.

The students placed third in the state finals in May and took home the Visionary Vanguard Award.

Jennifer Shelley, principal of Bermudian Springs Middle School, praised the students.

“They came to me in February and did this pitch and I was so impressed with their professionalism and their pitching,” Shelley said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘These are 13-year-old girls in our conference room pitching this.’ It was just absolutely amazing they had designed the whole thing. Then they went to states and did an amazing job.”

Shelley said the school received a certificate and letter from PA State Rep. Torren Ecker during the summer break. In the letter, Ecker congratulated the students.

“I think your class-flow application sounds like a much-needed and extremely well-thought-out idea,” Ecker said in his letter. “You and your family can be justifiably proud of this accomplishment, which no doubt is a result of your hard work and dedication on your part.”

Hotchkiss handed certificates to two school board members on behalf of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The certificates are given to board members who have served for 8 years, and are handed out every 4 years after that, according to Hotchkiss.

Treasurer Ruth Griffie received a certificate for reaching her 12th year of service to the board while board president Michael Wool received one for 16 years of service.

Wool then recognized Hotchkiss for recently being named the Superintendent of the Year in Pennsylvania.

“I personally want to thank Dr. Hotchkiss for the amount of incredible work that he’s done, the number of years that he’s been here,” Wool said. “The district, we’ve done a number of great things. We’ve had some, you know, also had to deal with one of the biggest challenges I think we’ve ever seen in education, such as COVID-19…. I do want to thank Dr. Hotchkiss and we just want him to know how much we appreciate the hard work and the innovation that he brings to the board and to the district.”

During the caucus meeting, Hotchkiss told the board the middle school was recently named an Apple Distinguished School.

The accomplishment is valid for three years and reflects hard work by the district, according to Hotchkiss, who added that only 880 schools worldwide have received the title.

Two of those 880 schools are in the Bermudian Springs school district as the high school was also named an Apple Distinguished School in 2022.

“I wanted to get a little bit more data, and so out of all those schools, only 55 districts in the United States have more than one school designated Apple Distinguished Schools,” Hotchkiss said. “We’re one of those 55.”

Hotchkiss said the accomplishment reflects on everyone in the school.

“It truly is a testament to the work of the teachers and staff and the students of Bermudian Springs Middle School,” Hotchkiss said.

The school board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13. A regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14.

In December, the board will hold a caucus meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4. The regular meeting will be held afterward.

All meetings will be held in the administrative office board room. Meetings are typically also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

Website | + posts

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
>
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x