Experiences of gender diverse kids at private middle and HS

We are considering moving from Berkeley schools to private middle (and eventually high school) in part for academic reasons, and also because we think our kids would do better in a smaller school environment.  We have a transgender child, and we would really appreciate hearing about experiences and perspectives from families with transgender or gender diverse kids.  We would like to find a middle school that continues to high school, so we are considering Bentley and Head Royce, and also considering middle schools that don't have a high school, like Park Day, Black Pine Circle, and Prospect Sierra, and also interested in other recommendations.  Thanks in advance for perspectives.

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Hello! I just wanted to say you might also look into Berkeley Independent Study. My two sons - 10th and 12th grade now, but started in 6th grade here- have had a very good experience in terms of support. They are not transgender/ gender diverse themselves but have had classmates that are and the community is very welcoming, a diverse and supportive staff and a lot of chances to customize projects and studies that interest your child.  Also, the schedule is more  flexible, so if your child wants to do extra curricular activities, they have more time in the day to focus on their passion that might be outside of school. It goes all the way through highschool, and they can still join some electives at the Berkeley middle schools or  Berkeley High if they want, such as Music or sports! 

My child is in 6th grade at Park Day and is nonbinary. We've had a wonderful experience in terms of gender identity at this school. The bathrooms are all gender neutral so no hard choices need to be made. The staff go through extensive training with Gender Spectrum. And the middle school GSA (gender sexuality alliance) is a really supportive group. The parent community and kids have also been welcoming and supportive. Even the sex ed program for middle school was affirming of the full gender and sexuality spectrum. They brought in an outside expert to run the sex ed program at middle school. 

If you want a middle school that supports transgender/gender diverse kids I honestly think you can't do better than Park Day. I've got a gender diverse kid at PDS and it's been a great experience for them. They started at PDS part way through elementary school because we were looking for a smaller, more supportive environment than they were getting at a charter school in Oakland. The teachers, staff, other kids and families are very well versed in gender diversity issues and thoughtful about everything from the curriculum (super important for sex ed in middle school!), school layout (PDS has had gender neutral bathrooms from before we joined) to extracurricular clubs for both kids (the Gender Sexuality Alliance is a very popular middle school group that has many members spanning 6-8th grade that meets on campus as well as outside of school) and parents (the Gender Justice Alliance is part parent-support group/part broader social justice group for the school). 

I wanted my kid to actively research middle schools because they didn't want to do that when we moved to PDS. They were pretty turned off by some of the other schools practices about locker rooms/changing for PE class and bathrooms in general. At best some schools have a completely separate bathroom which felt very isolating to my kid. I should note this was a couple of years ago so I have no idea what the bathroom situation is like but it made the choice to stay at PDS very easy for my particular kid. 

FWIW my kid identifies as non-binary but their friend group includes kids that identify as non-binary, trans, asexual-aromatic, gay, lesbian, straight and gender fluid. 

I should also add that some of the transgender kids choose not to join the GSA because they just want to be seen as their gender but really appreciate the fact there are other gender diverse kids at PDS and the care and knowledge of all the staff. Please reach out if you have specific questions about PDS or want to talk offline. 

I have a transgender child at a private East Bay high school, and our experience is that transgender and gender diverse kids are common enough at every single East Bay school that truly, any choice would be fine. It's very, very likely that your child will not be the only gender diverse kid in their class wherever they go. My kid was extremely supported at his private middle school when he transitioned, and when we were searching for private high schools we found a welcoming environment, all-gender restrooms, and active LGBTQ+ alliance groups everywhere we looked. The only high schools we did not consider were parochial, mostly due to dress codes that would have been uncomfortable for him. My kid is now thriving in high school and many of his friends are gender diverse. 

We moved to the East Bay last summer and chose Park Day for our two children, currently in 5th and 7th grades. Our kids have quickly adjusted to their new school and have thrived in the smaller, more nurturing environment Park Day provides.   Our 7th grader identifies as non-binary.  The faculty and staff, the other parents, and the students have all been supportive and welcoming.  There are a good number of LGBTQ+ students, families and staff at Park Day, to the point that gender-fluidity is just part of the fabric of the school rather that being something remarkable or unusual. 

I would say that Bentley is behind other schools in terms of transgender support. While there are transgender, non-binary, and other gender diverse students the school has dragged its feet on providing gender-neutral restrooms. The high school is about to install one gender-neutral restroom and the K-8 campus has none. Students can use preferred names and pronouns that are other than their legal ones and there is a GSA at the Upper School but not at the K-8 school. Teachers and students are generally very accepting but I would not say gender diversity is celebrated the way it may be at other schools. My child struggled with being misgendered frequently by his teachers although that is likely an issue at other schools as well. Faculty do not receive training on working with gender diverse students. I can't speak to how it is handled at Head-Royce.

Walden has been great for my transgender son. It's K-6.  The kids learn about gender diversity and the restrooms are gender neutral.  There's a lot of respect and it's so small.  It's in Berkeley on Dwight near MLK, and there are family from all over who commute there.  It is arts focused and the kids do 2 of Spanish/art/music/drama each day.  My son loves art and is mildly dyslexic so it's been great to have the arts and music to balance out the parts of school that are hard for him.  The Spanish teacher is from Chile and very kind.   Class size is small and because it does require an hour commitment from parents, it costs 10k less than other private schools.  The hours can be yardwork, cleaning, or helping out in music class, etc.  Check it out!

My daughter is just finishing 8th grade at Park Day School (K-8).  A lot of of the students are gender non-binary and gender fluid, and from what I can see the school supports this as the norm, including all bathroom being all gender, language by teachers and students being up to date, etc.  If you contact PDS, I am sure they can connect you with some of the families who can give you more detail