Las Vegas Sun

October 15, 2018

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CCSD:

Meet the kids who would be affected by transgender policy in schools

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Wade Vandervort

Daniel Kruger, Cameron Johnson, Kristina Hernandez and Shay Bravo shared their stories of being transgender youths in the Clark County School District.

IF YOU GO

• What: The CCSD Board of Trustees will discuss and possibly vote on the gender diversity and inclusion policy that has been in motion for almost a year. The policy is designed to help teachers and principals address issues facing students who are transgender or gender diverse, such as which bathroom the students can use. Trustees may vote during this meeting, but it’s important to note the board has pushed off voting on decisions regarding this policy in the past.

• When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9

• Where: The agenda will be released Monday, Aug. 6, according to CCSD spokesperson Mauricio Marin. The meeting is scheduled for the Clark County Commission chambers. Visit ccsd.net/trustees for updates.

Gender diverse policies aim to protect students who don’t identify with male or female binary gender expressions or the biological sex they were assigned at birth. While transgender individuals are the most well-known examples of gender nonconforming people, there are several others included in this group, such as genderfluid or agender individuals.

The Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 225 during the 2017 session, requiring the state Board of Education to institute a policy that protects students who are gender nonconforming, hoping to address higher incidences of homelessness, discrimination and suicide within this group.

In March, the Clark County School District voted 4-3 to expand upon that requirement with its own policy after several public meetings and heated debates between parents who supported and opposed the expansion. The policy would address issues facing transgender students, such as which bathroom they can use.

On Aug. 9, the board of trustees will have another meeting to discuss the policy and possibly vote on its adoption.

The division between the public has been ongoing, but many principals, including Jonathan Synold of Advanced Technologies Academy, cite the need for a districtwide policy that allows uniform treatment of students who are gender nonconforming.

“We’re the judge, jury and executioners in these situations,” Synold said. “Right now, we do things on a case-by-case basis. What we like to have is a policy written so we can tell those parents that might have concerns about transgender students, ‘Here’s the policy I’m following, and this is why I’m making these decisions.’ ”

Beyond the politics and public comments surrounding this issue are the students affected by these decisions. We spoke with a few of them.

Shay Bravo, 10

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Shay Bravo

Shay Bravo is a geography fanatic. She lists the three capitals of South Africa and the countries bordering Syria with ease.

Shay likes to draw, attends painting classes and also recently turned her focus to extreme baking. She sings in her church’s adult choir and dances to Ariana Grande at home. Shay is the youngest of Julie Bravo’s three children; her older siblings are 24 and 21 years old.

The first time Shay and her mother went to CCSD’s meeting on transgender policy, they left early to get churros because those who were opposed to the policy spoke first, and Julie saw the comments were wearing on her daughter.

“I felt terrible when they would say things like ‘a circle is a circle, a boy is a boy, there’s only two genders—a boy and a girl.’ I was like, ‘OK mama, let’s go get treats,’ ” Shay said.

Daniel Kruger, 17

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Daniel Kruger

Daniel Kruger’s first tattoo was a simple purple band on his upper arm with the birth and death dates of his younger sister. She committed suicide four days into his sophomore year of high school.

Daniel is a Las Vegas native and a self-described “band geek.” He plays four instruments, is learning two more and dreams of becoming a band director. He’s also going to pursue cosmetology so he has a few career options.

“Spotify says my most listened to music is garage indie punk, and I don’t know what that means,” Daniel said.

He started transitioning in eighth grade and came out during his freshman year.

By his sophomore year, Daniel was on testosterone. He graduated this year, but didn’t make a lot of friends during his time in CCSD’s high schools.

“A policy like the one being proposed would have helped me a lot through my transition,” he said. “I had to transfer two times during high school just to make sure I was safe or respected.”

Kristina Hernandez, 15

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Kristina Hernandez

Kristina Hernandez fiddled with the beaded bracelet on her wrist that had several dragonfly charms dangling from it.

“They’re sort of my thing,” she said. “My father passed away about a year ago, and I started seeing dragonflies a lot, which actually—in spiritual healing stuff—symbolize change. I noticed whenever I would feel his energy around me, I would always end up seeing dragonflies.” Kristina hadn’t seen her father for about seven years before his death.

Her mother, Laura, raised her in a heavily Hispanic area of Las Vegas where “thousands” of CDs from her grandmother’s production company fill their home. She collects vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s, adores Janis Joplin, George Harrison and The Beatles, and loathes modern music.

Kristina knew she was a girl since before she could remember. It was just a matter of convincing her mother to accept it. Then family and friends. Then her school and community.

She transitioned in sixth grade at a school where there wasn’t a lot of support. Kristina said her principal blamed that lack of support on not having a policy to follow.

“I’ve spent the past few years just trying to help other kids out,” she said. “I made a promise to myself that I was never going to let another kid go through what I went through.”

After a bad cyberbullying experience during her freshman year of high school, Kristina decided to fulfill her education requirements through homeschooling.

“There’s just so much more to me that isn’t based around gender,” she said.

Cameron Johnson, 14

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Cameron Johnson and her mother, Sandy

Cameron Johnson and her mom, Sandy, curled up on opposite ends of the couch with their 13-year-old dog Diamond close by. The Johnson family moved to Boulder City because Sandy is a pastor for the local United Methodist Church.

Cameron was accepted to Las Vegas Academy for band and will start her freshman year in the coming weeks. She plays the tenor sax, is “obsessed” with anything astronomy, and loves Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra.

At 5 years old, Cameron turned to Sandy and said, “Mom, I think I’m a girl.” Those words remained dormant until a few months ago, when Cameron told her mom again.

Her family is supportive, but sometimes her mom still uses the wrong pronouns.

Those slip-ups don’t disturb the strength of the Johnsons’ relationship.

It’s the strength of that support that helps Cameron cope with some of the hostilities at the middle school she attended since long before she began transitioning. Even though the school allowed Cameron to use the nurse’s bathroom as a restroom or to change for P.E., a policy to address these specific challenges would help her not stand out as much.

“If they did that, I wouldn’t be the record holder for going to the nurse’s office the most times during a day,” Johnson said.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.