Island schools are taking a hard look at policies protecting LGBTQ students.

At an all-Island regional school committee meeting last week, assistant superintendent Richard Smith proposed changes to protect specifically transgender and gender nonconforming students.

“Going through the process has been one where we’re trying to get input from children, from students, from parents, and from staff. The process has led me in different directions,” said Mr. Smith, who met with the high school’s gay straight alliance to get feedback. “What I have come here with is a revision to our anti-bias policy.”

The proposed addendum specifically names transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming students and includes a link to a web page containing guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The department added a safe schools program for LGBTQ students in 1993 in an effort to curb youth suicides and harassment.

“In looking to create specific policy to support LGBTQ students, I want to keep in mind that prior to our safe schools resolution [protecting students without documentation], we don’t have policy that is specific to one group of children. This would be a change in practice if we go in that direction,” Mr. Smith said.

Joy Robinson Lynch, a health and education consultant, approached the schools last year about making changes.

Mr. Smith said the superintendent’s office worked with Jeff Perrotti, program director of the Massachusetts safe schools program and author of much of the state’s guidance. Mr. Perrotti provided Mr. Smith with examples of other school districts he believes have adjusted their approaches to LGBTQ students appropriately.

About a dozen community members, many of them parents, attended the meeting. Several voiced concerns about placing a link under the school’s anti-bias policy, arguing that an Island-specific written document outlining changes is necessary.

Kathleen Tackabury, a parent and member of the activist group We Stand Together, thanked the committee for approaching the issue, but expressed concern about integrating the policy into daily practices. “I’m not sure whether inserting it in the anti-bias is the best way to do it because when we look at the anti-bias process, we look at it when something has happened,” she said. “It’s not a day-to-day thing.”

The state document offers guidance for creating an environment that welcomes transgender and gender nonconforming students based on Massachusetts gender identity law. “These students, because of widespread misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives, are at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying,” the document says in part.

Laura Silber, another member of We Stand Together, suggested adding a one-page document that is Vineyard-specific.

Many of the changes would require staff training in schools to familiarize teachers and administration with new practices.

The online document advises on how school staff should handle student name changes and pronouns, allowing for privacy and confidentiality. According to the guidance, transgender students should be allowed to use the rest room or locker room corresponding to their gender identity, and a private changing area should be made available if necessary. Students should also be able to participate on the sports team that corresponds with their gender identity. It encourages schools to eliminate gender-based categorization wherever possible. For example, a teacher who lines students up by gender before leaving the classroom should line them up alphabetically or by birthdate instead.

The all-Island school committee has no authority to change policy, so the new addendum to the anti-bias policy and the state guidance will return to individual school committees for review.

In other business, the committee discussed changes to the shared services and special education program including the addition of more special education teachers and the elimination of some teaching assistant positions. The committee also discussed how to evaluate the superintendent, charging each school committee to come up with goals for him to meet.

The meeting began with a moment of silence for Jake Baird, the high school student who died in a car accident on Jan. 12.