Obama administration links bathroom bills to Title IX funds
May 13th, 2016 by

  • bathroom sign

(CNN) —The Obama administration will issue guidance Friday directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice will go out to schools on Friday with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” the Obama administration said on Thursday.

The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”

The letter does not carry the force of law but the message was clear: Fall in line or face loss of federal funding.

Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly made clear that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.

“The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” the administration said Thursday.

LGBT groups praised the announcement, calling it a validation of transgender rights and a repudiation of so-called “bathroom bills” that ban people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex.

“These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration’s position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

“This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”

The letter emphasizes the departments’ shared position that schools must treat transgender students the way they want to be treated based on their gender identity, regardless of how others may feel about it.

Schools should let transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity, according to the guidance. Staff should address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns. Schools cannot require students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate before treating them consistent with their gender identity, the guidance states.

“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” the letter says.

The guidance takes the same approach to the bathroom issue: A school may provide gender-separated facilities but it must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. If a school opts for individual stalls it must make them available to all students.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said the letter comes in response to request from schools and parents seeking guidance.

“This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly — that gender identity is protected under Title IX,” he said. “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.

Dept. of Education: Yes, Title IX Protects Trans Students
May 13th, 2016 by

The Department of Education is poised to release on Friday its most detailed guidelines to date explaining the obligations that schools receiving public funding have to their transgender students.

These obligations include respecting the gender identity of transgender students by using the student’s preferred name and pronouns, and ensuring them access to sports teams, educational opportunities, and sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity, according to a draft of the DOE letter obtained by The Advocate. 

The letter, which will be sent Friday to public K-12 schools nationwide, as well as to colleges and universities that receive federal funding, plainly defines a school’s responsibilities to its trans students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive any public funding.

“This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status,” reads the letter. “For purposes of the Department’s enforcement of Title IX, as explained in more detail in this letter, a student’s sex is determined by the student’s gender identity.”

The document further affirms that schools must use a student’s preferred name and pronouns, regardless of what is listed on the student’s official school records or government-issued identification. It notes that transgender individuals — especially young people — are frequently unable to attain updated legal documents, either because the state they live in does not allow such changes, because the student’s parents or guardians are not supportive of their identity, or because updating such documents is often time-consuming, costly, and frequently not an option available to people under the age of 18.

The letter, signed by DOE officials and members of the U.S. Department of Justice, is deemed a “significant guidance document,” though it is not legally binding. It builds on legal interpretations of Title IX’s trans inclusions long advanced by the Obama Administration, and marks the most direct instruction the federal agency has provided to schools since it issued a (much shorter) memo on the same issue in 2014.

The guidance comes in the same week that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered a historic speech affirming the civil rights of transgender Americans, promising that the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration will use its full force to put a stop to anti-transgender discrimination. Lynch (pictured above with Education Secretary Arne Duncan) also announced during that speech that the DOJ had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina for its discriminatory law known as House Bill 2, which, among other things, bars transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms in government-run spaces that correspond with their gender identity.

The letter goes on to define several basic terms regarding transgender identities, many of which have been widely misinterpreted in the wake of controversial laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, which bar transgender people from using public facilities that match their gender identities.

The draft letter’s “terminology” section reads:

“Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender.  A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.

Sex assigned at birth refers to the sex designation recorded on an infant’s birth certificate should such a record be provided at birth.

Gender expression refers to how individuals represent their gender to others, often through appearance or behavior.

Transgender describes those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender male is someone who identifies as male but was assigned the sex of female at birth; a transgender female is someone who identifies as female but was assigned the sex of male at birth.”

The letter primarily focuses on the implementation of Title IX’s protections against sex-based discrimination in educational settings, stressing that the Department of Education “treats a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for the purposes of Title IX.”

“This means that a school must not treat transgender students differently from the way it treats other students of the same sex,” continues the draft letter. “For example, a school must treat transgender female students the same way it treats other female students.”

Federal funding, including financial aid, is generally tied to a school’s compliance with Title IX, except in cases where a school has obtained a waiver — often seeking a religious exemption. As a condition of receiving those federal funds, schools must guarantee that they will not “exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex” any student attending the institution.

The letter instructs that a school must accept and affirm a student’s gender identity from the moment administrators are notified by the student’s parent or guardian. This affirmation includes providing equal access to the appropriate sex-segregated activities and spaces, including locker rooms and bathrooms.

Crucially, the letter notes that schools may not require any student to undergo any clinical, surgical, or mental health treatment as a condition of the school accepting the student’s affirmed gender identity. Schools also may not require that transgender students produce an updated birth certificate that reflects their gender identity as a condition of having that identity respected on campus. Such requirements constitute a violation of Title IX, the draft letter explains.

Further, the Department is clear that objections by other students, parents, or faculty to a transgender student’s identity are not legally sufficient reasons to deny that student equal access. In responding to such objections, the school cannot place “a greater burden on transgender students than other students.” Schools may address concerns about privacy in locker rooms or bathrooms by allowing all students access to alternate facilities, like single-stall restrooms, however a school may not require that only the transgender student use a separate facility.

“Discomfort with transgender people expressed by anyone, inside or outside of the school community, cannot justify denying transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities or treating transgender students inconsistent with their gender identity,” reads the draft letter.

The letter goes on to outline “common issues” that schools and administrators may face when working to support transgender students, including ensuring a “safe and nondiscriminatory environment,” using correct names and pronouns, protecting a transgender student’s privacy (including their birth name and sex assigned at birth) and ensuring equal access to sex-segregated activities and facilities.

While Title IX does allow for sex-segregated facilities, athletic teams, housing, and in some cases, entire schools, the draft letter is adamant that transgender students be granted access to such spaces that correspond with their gender identity.

In an example that seems pulled from the headlines of a drawn-out legal battle in Palatine, Illinois, where a transgender girl was barred from using the girl’s locker room and bathroom, and instead required to use a separate staff bathroom to change for class, the letter explains:

“A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity (e.g., a school may not require a transgender female student to use the male restroom) or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user facilities available to all students who seek additional privacy.

“For example, the Department may find a violation where a school requires a transgender student to use the nurse’s office to change for gym class. In that scenario, one nondiscriminatory way in which to accommodate any privacy concern would be to allow the transgender student to access the locker room consistent with the student’s gender identity and, if necessary, make other arrangements to increase privacy for all students without isolating or burdening the transgender student, such as rearranging locker assignments, hanging privacy curtains, or providing all students with access to individual-user alternatives.”

Preferred Name Information
Feb 12th, 2016 by

For schools working with students transitioning,  the issue of name change can be a complicated one. Laws vary from state to state. Here is how one university handles name changes.


Preferred Names

Statement of commitment to inclusion

In support of the University of Pennsylvania’s commitment to providing an equitable and safe experience for students whose birth name and/or legal name does not reflect their gender identity and/or gender expression, Penn accepts requests from such students to use a preferred first and/or middle name in University records.  A student’s preferred name can and will be used where feasible in all University systems unless the student’s birth name and/or legal name use is required by law or the student’s preferred name use is for intent of misrepresentation.


Transgender, gender nonconforming, gender variant, and non-cisgender students who wish to designate a preferred name should fill out the Preferred Name Change Form. Students wishing to change a birth name and/or legal name to a preferred name must meet with one of the following designated University Life trans* allies to discuss the scope and limitations of the preferred name request:

Karu Kozuma, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs, 215-898-6081

Erin Cross, Associate Director, LGBT Center, 215-898-5044

Rodney Robinson, Associate Director, Office of Student Affairs, 215-898-6533


Although the University is committed to supporting students in the trans* community, it is important to understand that designating a preferred name for use at Penn DOES NOT constitute a legal name change. A student’s birth name and/or legal name will continue to be used on certain University documents. Preferred first and/or middle names may be designated. The University is unable to designate a preferred surname without documents showing that the surname has been changed legally by a court or government entity.

Students interested in changing their name legally can find resources through local government or the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia.


Can all Penn students request to change their designation from a birth name and/or legal name to a preferred name? At this time, the Preferred Name Change process is only available to transgender, gender nonconforming, gender variant, and non-cisgender individuals and only for first and/or middle names.

I would like to talk to someone about changing my name in Penn systems to my preferred name. Please contact one of the above University Life trans* allies.

I am a student and made a legal name change. How do I communicate this legal name change to the University?Legal names can be updated through the University Registrar.

New Guide On Supporting Transgender Students In K-12 Environments
Aug 5th, 2015 by

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and itsWelcoming Schools project are proud to be a part of the team that created Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, a resource that will provide educators with guidance for supporting transgender students.

The guide, led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Gender Spectrum, and co-produced with the National Education Association (NEA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, will help school administrators, teachers, parents, caregivers and other community members understand the needs of transgender youth and the best ways to support them.

…… read more

Some parents with students at Old Town Elementary received a letter that said there is a second grade student in the school that is transgender.
Sep 8th, 2014 by

OLD TOWN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Some parents with students at Old Town Elementary received a letter that said there is a second grade student in the school that is transgender. The school district mailed the letter to parents at the start of the new school year. It went to parents who have children in the same learning community as the transgender student, which is made up of about 120 kids from different grades. The letter says the student “may be familiar to your children as a boy, but will now be recognized as a girl.” It goes on to say that the student has identified as a girl for quite some time and will now be using a new name and dressing in a more feminine manner. The student will also be using the girls’ bathroom, according to the letter. It also acknowledges that this is a new situation for many people, including staff members. NEWS CENTER has attached the entire letter to this story. The school was not legally obligated to send the letter, but the RSU34 Superintendent David Walker said it chose to. Legally, under the Maine Human Rights Act, the school is required to treat all students equally. Walker said the child’s family met with the school over the summer to develop a plan. The school drafted the letter, then the family and the superintendent reviewed and approved it. Old Town Elementary wanted parents to hear the information from the school first, and not from their children, according to Walker. There are several organizations in Maine that provide resources for people struggling with gender identity, advocate for transgender equality, and work to educate the community. Here are a few links to learn more: The letter that the school wrote is here…

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