The School District of Philadelphia is allowing students to identify as “non-binary,” giving students themselves control over their gender identity.
6ABC Philadelphia reports that the new district policy, which took effect Monday, provides students who identify as “non-binary” the opportunity to change their gender identity by filling out a form declaring their stated gender and submitting it.
“It really is as simple as downloading the form and then identifying with whichever gender, whether it’s male, female or the non-binary option,” said School District of Philadelphia spokeswoman Monica Lewis.
The student’s self-identified gender preference will then be used in school-specific applications like Google Classrooms and internal systems like school and district records, as well as report cards. Students will be allowed to change their own gender themselves, including declaring themselves non-binary, without a parent’s or guardian’s permission, and without providing legal documentation recognizing the change.
“We do understand that today a lot of individuals do not identify with the gender to which they were born,” said Lewis.
The new approach falls in line with Policy 252, a plan put in place by the School District of Philadelphia “to affirm the rights of students who are transgender,” Lewis told 6ABC.
Those changes will not be reflected in Pennsylvania state records, however, as state law still requires that a student’s information in the state Department of Education match the records on the student’s legal birth certificate.
“This is an important step forward in our effort to become a more equitable and inclusive school district,” School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite wrote to parents in a letter announcing the policy.
The lack of a parental permission requirement could be a sticking point for parents, but John Fisher-Klein, executive director for the LGBTQ-focused Attic Youth Center, advised parents to allow their children to be their “authentic” selves.
“I would make a plea to the parent,” he told 6ABC. “And that plea would be to create a space where your child can be authentically themselves.”
There are no statistics on the number of students in the district who identify as non-binary, but according to a survey of Philadelphia and the nearby cities of Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, about 1.1% of respondents identified as “non-binary,” about the same as the national figure, 6ABC reports.
“Regardless of the number,” Lewis told the outlet, “the goal is that any child feels like they are safe and they belong.”
A number of other school districts have encouraged students to declare themselves transgender without their parents’ consent. The Daily Wire previously reported that school districts in the states of Colorado and Texas have both instructed teachers to conceal a student’s transgender identity. The Daily Wire also reported in July that a professor at Arizona State University suggested that parents should have their power to “veto” a child’s gender self-identification and transition process revoked.
The Biden administration has also taken steps to recognize individuals who identify as “non-binary.” The administration issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation in October, as The Daily Wire reported.