Dept. of Education Renews Call to Investigate Anti-Trans Discrimination in Schools | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dept. of Education Renews Call to Investigate Anti-Trans Discrimination in Schools

Joined by over 300 transgender and LGBT community members and allies at the National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) 12th Anniversary Celebration, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon renewed the Education Department’s call to investigate and resolve Title IX sex discrimination violations against transgender students nationwide.

As NCTE’s featured speaker, Assistant Secretary Lhamon said “I really am so honored to be with you all tonight to be able to celebrate the forward movement we’re making toward equality for all people.” As part of that work, Ms. Lhamon reiterated the Department’s efforts toward “ensuring the satisfaction of civil rights.” From pursuing a complaint of a male community college student in Colorado who faced discrimination for wearing women’s clothes, to resolving a complaint for a California student who was disciplined for wearing makeup—the Department of Education has been in aggressive pursuit of schools that do not respect transgender students.

These case resolutions are consistent with the Education Department’s very significant policy clarifications released in April 2014: guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination based on Title IX sex discrimination law. “[W]e’re making really transformative critical change for students in schools,” Assistant Secretary Lhamon said. “I want you to know we are in business and we accept complaints and we love to investigate them.”

Ryan, a transgender student and junior in high school, while introducing Assistant Secretary Lhamon, said the Office for Civil Rights has “one of the most important voices in government” by working “on the front lines, striving to prevent and address discrimination in schools” to ensure a quality education for all children.

Eli Sauerwalt is one such student. Before transitioning, wearing the girl’s gym uniform and using the girl’s locker room at school were just some of the impossibilities that caused migraines, depression and chronic school absences. In fact, he missed a quarter of the 2014 school year. Eli’s mom, Amy, said “In the beginning, although I always supported my child, I had a really hard time switching names and pronouns. I struggled hard with the deep sense of personal loss I felt from losing my daughter. But since the transition, I have this amazing, happy son that I couldn't love more. Peace has finally settled in for my child.” Eli added that being transgender can be isolating, but now, because of the Department of Education’s Title IX protections, Eli said “no one can use my birth name as an attack anymore.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly advocated the Education Department on the Title IX policy clarifications, but more work remains. As NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling pointed out, eliminating anti-trans discrimination in the context of facilities such as bathrooms appears to be the trans movement’s next battleground—a fight we’re winning so far.

To learn more about transgender student’s right in school, visit our Know Your Rights in school resource here.

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