Venable partner Caryn Pass was interviewed in the January/February 2016 issue of Net Assets on top HR issues facing independent schools this year. Pass focused on the issue of transgender students and staff. It is an issue many schools are not prepared to address because they have not reviewed the everyday policies impacting them.
"Look, this is a culture issue," said Pass. "It's the new frontier, and every school really has to navigate through it." Understanding the issue is important for many reasons Pass says, "not the least of which is making people feel comfortable." While defining school policies and providing a safe environment may be tricky, Pass says the harder issue is likely communicating with and educating the broader school community. "Think strategically about how you’re going to deliver that message."
When dealing with students or staff who are transgender, Pass advises schools to "Ask what they would like to say, what makes them most comfortable, do they have a pronoun preference." She added that the head of the school may have to speak with concerned parents to say, "This is our culture, this is how we operate, and if you're not comfortable, perhaps this isn't the right community for you." On HR compliance, Pass advises not overlooking procedural matters such as a name change. "This also applies to people changing their name when they marry."