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Scottsdale Councilwoman: Great Hearts Must Change Transgender Policy To Partner With City

(Photo via Scottsdaleaz.gov)
Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield

A Scottsdale city councilwoman says one of Arizona’s largest charter-school organizations must change its policy for transgender students to get her support for a new athletic facility.

On Tuesday evening, the City Council gave the go-ahead to begin conversations on partnering with Great Hearts Academies to develop a piece of city-owned property near the DC Ranch community in north Scottsdale.  

Under the initial proposal, Great Hearts would pay to build the park and accompanying athletic facilities. In return, the land would be open to the public when certain areas are not in use by sports teams.

Some locals are worried about stretching public resources, disrupting the neighborhood and hurting property values. Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield shares those concerns and has another: Great Hearts' "biological sex and gender" policy.

As KJZZ recently reported, the Great Hearts Arizona Board of Directors, filled with business and community leaders, decided last year that students must use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates. That requirement also applies to pronouns, the dress code and school activities. Arizona law requires a person to undergo gender reassignment surgery in order to change a birth certificate.

Some Great Hearts families with transgender children and LGBTQ advocates have called the policy "anti-transgender" and "discriminatory."

Littlefield said Scottsdale has a non-discrimination policy for its employees.

“I would want to make sure that we as a city stand behind our own policy statements, especially when dealing with those we do business with and that would include Great Hearts," she said.

Littlefield said she was told by representatives of Great Hearts that they are rewriting the policy.

But a school spokesperson said Great Hearts has not made any changes and did not comment on whether it would.

The statement from Great Hearts to KJZZ, in part, states:

"... our policy focuses on the separation of the sexes where the differences between minor-aged boys and girls really matter: locker rooms and bathrooms, as well as accommodations on overnight field trips.

"Great Hearts does not discriminate. Our policy is simple, clear, and applies equally to all students: access to these uniquely private facilities is determined by the sex stated on a student’s birth certificate, which has always been the governing document when a student is enrolled at Great Hearts or any school system in Arizona."

The statement does not address the other aspects of the policy that deal with issues like pronouns, "the grooming standards of their sex" and school activities.

Great Hearts does allow students to use a unisex bathroom, but a Great Hearts student who is transgender told KJZZ that often isn't practical during the school day.

Littlefield said Great Hearts has pulled its original proposal and she expects the project will come back to the council for further consideration now that city staff, council members and citizens have offered their input.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.