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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Maryland, Federal Agencies Step Up for Trans Students

NCTE welcomes three important actions taken in the last week by the US Justice Department, the US Department of Education, and the Maryland State Department of Education to stand up for the dignity and rights of transgender students.

Yesterday, the US Department of Education issued a landmark decision finding that an Illinois school district violated the federal Title IX equality law by discriminating against a transgender girl on the basis of sex. The Department found, after a lengthy investigation, that the Palatine High School District 211 is in violation of Title IX for denying the student equal access to locker room facilities for changing clothes. The student, represented by the ACLU, has lived and attended school as a girl for years, but the school district has imposed unique restrictions on her use of changing facilities that do not apply to any other students.

“We welcome the Department’s action standing on the side of fairness in this case,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “Transgender students today face terrible levels of harassment in school. Further isolating and stigmatizing these students, who just want to be themselves and participate in school, is completely misguided. Providing more privacy for everyone is a good thing; discriminating against one student or a group of students is wrong.”

Last week, the US Justice Department also weighed in in a big way for trans students by filing a historic friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. In that case the ACLU is representing a transgender boy whose school district officially banned him from the boys’ restroom and relegated him to a separate and inconvenient staff restroom. The brief argues persuasively that the district’s policy “denies G.G. a benefit that all of his peers enjoy—access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity—because, unlike them, his birth-assigned sex does not align with his gender identity,” and that denying a boy access to the boys’ room because he is transgender is tantamount to denying him use of a restroom altogether. The Department’s position is consistent with that of the EEOC, the Department of Labor, and other agencies and courts.

Also last week, the Maryland State Department of Education issued guidelines for schools across the state on nondiscrimination and creating supportive environments for transgender and gender nonconforming students. The guidance, which NCTE and several national and state partners provided extensive input on, addresses key topics such as dress codes, school facilities, extracurricular activities, and records and confidentiality, and is similar to previous guidance issued by several other states, most recently New York and the District of Columbia.

 “A safe and supportive school environment minimizes stigmatization, protects all students from harassment and bullying, and does not single out students by gender,” said Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE Director of Policy. “This guidance will help students across the state who have faced tremendous barriers, and assist districts in answering practical, everyday questions. We commend Maryland for following the other states who have issued such guidance, and we urge the US Department of Education to swiftly issue strong and comprehensive Title IX guidelines for schools across the country.”

 

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