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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and/or queer, intersex, asexual and/or ally

The Howard County Public School System is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all of our students and to ensure that every student has equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. HCPSS policy requires that all staff create welcoming school communities by promoting a safe, supportive school and work environment.

HCPSS will:

  1. Respect individual student choices on what to disclose to HCPSS staff, students, and community members.
  2. Refer to students by the name and gender pronouns that fit their gender identity.
  3. Implement and provide access to gender-inclusive restrooms, dress code policies, and classroom practices.
  4. Support the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) clubs or similar LGBTQIA+-related student clubs.
  5. Prohibit and respond to reports of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.


Policy 1010 Anti-Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation, which are specified as protected classes.

Policy 1060 Bullying, Cyberbullying, Harassment, or Intimidation prohibits intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct, or an intentional electronic communication that creates a hostile educational or work environment by substantially interfering with a student’s or employee’s educational or employment benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with their physical or psychological well-being and is motivated by an actual or a perceived personal characteristic including sexual orientation or gender identity.

Policy 1080 Educational Equity seeks to achieve educational equity by establishing expectations related to the identification and elimination of disparities in education outcomes. It references sexual orientation and gender identity in its definition of diversity and specifically mandates culturally responsive curriculum that includes LGBTQIA+ perspectives.

Related policies →

Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students

HCPSS is committed to providing an educational and work environment that is free from discrimination, fosters equitable opportunities, and values diversity and commonality. Policy 1010 Anti-Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, immigration status, religion, physical, mental, or educational disability, pregnancy, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status or socioeconomic status.

HCPSS staff ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of transgender and gender nonconforming students and support their social integration while avoiding stigmatizations.

Administrators and school staff will consider the needs of students on a case-by-case basis and use this information and other available resources, as appropriate. Individual student needs, including age and other factors, are central to the supports developed.

Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students

Transgender and gender nonconforming students have long been part of the HCPSS community and informal supports have been in place to support students, their families, their teachers and school support staff. HCPSS has worked to further the understanding of the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students and to support them in a more comprehensive manner by training staff, developing guidelines, and engaging stakeholders.

Understanding Gender Identity

Transgender individuals are those whose gender assigned at birth does not match their gender identity. A transgender boy, for example, is one who was assigned the gender of female at birth but has a clear and persistent identity as male.

Gender nonconforming individuals are those whose gender-related identity does not meet the societal and social expectations associated with their gender assigned at birth. Gender nonconforming people can differ in the ways in which they express as male, female, some combination of both, or neither.

Intersex individuals have a range of conditions associated with the development of physical sex characteristics that do not fit the typical definition of male or female. Intersex is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or anatomy. There are many possible variations in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy or chromosomes.

The age at which individuals come to understand and express their gender identity may vary based on their social, family, and environmental factors. As a result, the individual best situated to determine a person’s gender identity is that person.

Gender is not binary. People fit along each of the following continua, but they can be anywhere along them. Biological Sex: Organs, hormones and chromosomes. Gender Expression: How you demonstrate your gender. Gender Identity: How you think about yourself. Sexual Orientation: Who you are physically, emotionally or romantically attracted to.

The diagram above helps to illustrate gender as not being exclusively one or the other. Historically and culturally, gender has been viewed as a spectrum of one’s biology (the organs – identified at birth, hormones), the expression of their gender (how they dress, act, externally “show their gender”), their identity (in one’s mind, how they think about themselves), and their attraction to another gender.

Schools Recognizing Gender

A student will be considered transgender or gender nonconforming if, at school, the student consistently asserts a gender identity or expression different from the gender assigned at birth. This involves more than a casual declaration of gender identity or expression, but it does not require a medical diagnosis and does not apply to non-gender identity related preferences. Staff will use a student’s preferred name and pronouns when that information is shared.

Masking Names and Gender

HCPSS has a masking process for students who are not changing their legal name but want their presenting name, on most documents, to be something other than their legal name. Parent consent is not required, but parents will know about the change (e.g., through report cards). Students should reach out to their school counselor to discuss the many factors that might impact their decision to seek this change.

Preferred Names

HCPSS plans to use preferred names in applications such as Canvas and Google Drive in the near future. Students who wish to use a preferred name may notify their school’s front office staff. A preferred name is different from a masked name as preferred name and legal name will both appear in records.

Gender Options

Students identify as male, female or nonbinary to describe their gender upon registration. Students who want to mask the gender indicated in student records may contact their school counselor to make the change.

Seeking Support and Assistance

School staff members work with individual students and families. If support or assistance is needed, school counselors, other student services staff members, and school administrators are all available to offer support and/or assistance. School staff are prepared to support and work with individual students and families and will keep information confidential.

For more information or additional support, call the HCPSS Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at 410-313-6600 or the Office of School Counseling at 410-313-6748.

Reporting Discrimination and Harassment

It is HCPSS’ top priority to provide a safe school environment for all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students. Any incident of discrimination, harassment, or violence is given immediate attention, including investigating the incident, taking appropriate corrective action, and providing students and staff with appropriate resources and supports.

Complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived gender identity are handled in the same manner as other discrimination or harassment complaints, as defined in Policy 1010, Policy 1020, and Policy 1060.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do transgender and gender nonconforming individuals identify as their gender 100% of the time?

Because transgender and gender nonconforming individuals may experience discrimination and even violence, some environments may feel safe and inclusive and others less so, challenging a person’s ability to live consistently with one gender identity in all aspects of life. For example, it is possible that a student assigned male at birth with a female gender identity who lives as a girl does not express her female gender identity all the time. Such a person might agree to present as a boy when visiting relatives until the person’s parents can explain the person’s transgender identity to them. The fact that the person does not exclusively assert her female identity does not alter the fact that she has a female gender identity.

How will teachers decide how students should be segregated by gender when necessary?

Schools are reducing or eliminating the practice of segregating students by gender (e.g., recess, choral groupings, physical education, etc.). In situations where students may be segregated by gender for instructional purposes, such as for health instruction in puberty education, students are given the opportunity to choose their group.

How are schools handling restroom and locker room use?

Every student needs to feel safe and that their privacy is protected during restroom and locker room use. Accommodations will be made for any student who is uncomfortable or feels their privacy is being infringed upon.

If any student desires increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason, the administrator shall provide the student with reasonable access to an alternative restroom such as a single-stall restroom or the health office restroom. Taking into account existing school facilities, administrators will take steps to designate single stall restrooms on their campus that any student may use. Where facilities constraints make this impractical, administrators will identify a restroom available for students wishing increased privacy, including for reasons of gender identity. Students believed to be using a restroom or locker room for improper purposes will be prevented from doing so and/or be held accountable in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.

How will schools handle a student who chooses to identify as a particular gender for improper purposes?

A school accepts a student’s sincere assertion of their gender identity. The only circumstance in which a school may question a student’s asserted gender identity is when school personnel have a credible basis for believing that the student’s gender-related identity is being asserted for some improper purpose. School administrators and student services staff will collaborate with students, families and other supporting adults.

A student who claims to identify as a different gender than they have been known by for improper purposes will be prevented from acting improperly or illegally and, if they proceed, will be subject to discipline identified in the Student Code of Conduct and HCPSS Policy.

How is participation in interscholastic athletics determined?

High school interscholastic athletics are managed by the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) as part of the Maryland State Board of Education. The MPSSAA has determined that:

  1. Transgender students can participate on the interscholastic athletics team of the student’s birth gender.
  2. Transgender students can participate on interscholastic athletics teams of the gender that the student has transitioned to. This may be supported by medical documentation (hormonal therapy, sexual reassignment surgery, counseling, etc.) confirming transition of gender.
  3. Transgender students may compete on the interscholastic team of the gender the student identifies with, as recognized by the local school system and established in official school system records. This may differ from the student’s gender listed in school system records.

Can I change my official student records?

HCPSS is required to maintain a mandatory permanent pupil record (“official record”) that includes a student’s legal name and legal gender. According to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), the only official school records are Student Records Cards (1-7), transcripts and diplomas. On all documents and records other than those listed in the previous sentence, HCPSS shall use the name and gender preferred by the student with a process for masking. There will be some situations where school staff or administrators are required by law to use or to report a student’s legal name or gender, such as for purposes of standardized testing, but school staff and administrators shall adopt practices to avoid the inadvertent disclosure of such confidential information.

HCPSS has a process by which a student can request to mask a legal name and/or gender assigned at birth. This is different than a student legally changing either field or using a preferred name, but will allow the presenting name and/or gender to show on non-official documents. The presenting name is populated from Synergy into virtual learning platforms. For additional information and/or support, please discuss with a school counselor or school administrator.

Per the 2020 Maryland Student Records System Manual, parents can now choose from three options in the student’s gender field when enrolling:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Nonbinary, student identifies as neither male or female or both

Families of current students who wish to change their child’s gender in the HCPSS system should contact their child’s school counselor. More information is available online.