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Department of Education affirms critical protections for trans students


Today, we have won one of the biggest victories of the transgender community ever. The federal government has made it more clear than ever: discrimination against transgender students in education is illegal.

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education’s actions today, transgender students and their allies now have a critical new tool in the fight for equal treatment and respect in schools. With the long-awaited policy letter being sent to all schools today, the Department of Education is making sure that schools and colleges across the country know what they are required to do under federal law to protect the rights of transgender students. The Department of Education also compiled an Emerging Practices guide that gives examples of tested, positive policies from schools throughout the country.

The Department of Education, along with the Department of Justice, has been saying for years that Title IX (the law that deals with sex discrimination in education) prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. The policy letter released today explains what that prohibition means for transgender students in practice. It means that students have the right to dress, use school restrooms and locker rooms, and participate in activities in a way that matches their gender identity. It also means that schools must use the right names and pronouns for transgender students and protect students’ privacy by keeping information about their transgender status confidential.

The Department of Education’s policy makes it clear that laws like North Carolina’s, which force trans students into restrooms that don’t match their gender, are overridden by federal law—and that the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title IX will take action against schools that discriminate against trans students.

Check out NCTE’s fact sheet on the Department of Education policy to learn more about what this policy means for you or for the transgender students in your life.

To make sure your school is in compliance with Title IX sex discrimination laws, do these three things:

  1. Share the Department of Education’s policy letter and emerging practices guide  with your principal, teachers, and school district staff.

  2. Tell your school to adopt the Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which gives schools a complete set of policies to help trans and gender non-conforming students, and point school administrators to Schools in Transition: Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools for an additional resource on supporting trans students.

  3. If they are still not complying, file a complaint with the Department of Education. You can file a complaint if you experience any discrimination, or if you see discrimination against a transgender or gender non-conforming students. To learn how you can file a complaint, check out NCTE’s guide, Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students: Your Rights at School, or get legal help.


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