Sarah Woolf, Deerfield Class of 2012, has begun a process to help draft a portion in the employee handbook concerning student sexual identity, and how faculty should go about addressing this delicate topic.
The first draft of her proposal, which she has sent to Dean of Students Amie Creagh and Dean of Faculty John Taylor reads, “No authority figure may address a student regarding their sexual identity unless that student has independently decided to share that identity with the entire community.”
Woolf was inspired to draft this proposal after an incident last spring. “I found myself on a chair in an office with a closed door,” Woolf said, “facing the suggestion that I was dating my best friend.”
Woolf said she was concerned with the possibility of any authority figure, in her case an administrator, approaching students to ask about their sexual orientation. “In no context is it ever acceptable for somebody to out a student, to make them feel cornered like that and forced to reveal their sexual identity. Ever,” she said.
Ms. Creagh agreed there is a need for “some sort of guideline for how we can support questioning kids in ways that are not intimidating and forcing them to identify their sexual orientation.”
She said the policy would support students “in that process without it feeling intrusive or heavy-handed in any way.”
Woolf added, “I want to put this rule into place to protect people who are struggling, so that they don’t refrain from expressing themselves or discovering who they are for fear of being asked point blank what their sexual identity is.”
Woolf has met with Ms. Creagh to help draft a proposal to put into the employee handbook, and hopes the policy will be finalized and introduced by the end of the winter term.
“[Sarah] is looking to engage the school in a collaboration on the development of policies that support our questioning or outing gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students,” Ms. Creagh said.
Gay Straight Alliance President Julie Harris ’13 responded to the proposal. “Coming to terms with one’s orientation is a very personal and confusing process, and being questioned about it only adds to the confusion. This would be a great addition to the faculty handbook,” she said.