Forty-five percent of Montgomery County students identified as nonbinary in survey
Officials in Montgomery County Public Schools are pushing back on reports that the district has seen a significant increase in nonbinary students after a picture of a slide revealing district data from counseling surveys circulated online.
A picture of the slide was shared on Twitter by Elicia Eberhart-Bliss, the acting assistant principal of Quince Orchard High School, and showed that since 2019, the school district’s counselors had processed 423 intake forms concerning student gender identity, with 45% of respondents indicating they identified as nonbinary.
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The slide was part of a presentation at the MCPS Pride ALLiance meeting and showed data from 84 (less than half) of the district’s 209 schools. In all, 203 middle school students filled out the intake form, along with 179 high school students and 41 elementary school students.
The presentation showed that the number of reported gay, transgender, or nonbinary students increased from 35 in the 2019-2020 school year to 108 in 2020-2021 and 239 in 2021-2022. The data are all self-reported, and the year-to-year increase could be due to a variety of factors, including an actual increase in the number of gender-nonconforming students, more students willing to disclose their identity to school counselors, or simply an increase in the number of completed forms reported by schools to the district.
The slide was interpreted in reports as a sizable increase in the number of gender-nonconforming students in the school district, but in a statement to the Washington Examiner, a district spokesperson said that conclusion could not be drawn from the available data.
“A full accounting of students who may identify as LGBTQ+ or gender-nonconforming is impossible to know,” Christopher Cram, the district’s director of communications, said in an email. “This information is covered by privacy rules and is only collected if a student offers that information to a counselor. Therefore, a percentage ‘of’ or ‘rise’ cannot be determined or be considered accurate in any way.”
The intake form is used by school administrators, counselors, and psychologists and can be completed with the assistance of a parent or guardian “if the student states that they [the parent or guardian] are aware of and supportive of the student’s gender identity.”
The form asks students what their preferred gender identity is, their preferred name and pronouns, and whether or not their parents are aware of their identity. Students who fill it out are also asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 how supportive their parents are of their gender identity.
“Student’s indication of identified gender on this form is for confidential notification to the school only,” a footnote on the form says. Administrators are also directed to keep the form in a “secure, confidential location” apart from the student’s “cumulative or confidential folders.”
Bethany Mandel, a Montgomery County resident and activist, told the Washington Examiner that “this data proves that they are in fact keeping track and that there has been an explosion. The manner in which it was revealed indicates that the county is proud of the fact that there is such a rise in gender confusion among children.”
“They are also tracking parental support and know full well that they’re undermining parents’ wishes,” she said. “They don’t care. But it’s the parents who will be left to pick up the pieces when this passes for kids.”
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The school district, located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., is the largest in Maryland and counts over 160,000 students, according to data from US News & World Report. The 423 completed intake forms represent less than one-tenth of 1% of the district’s student body.