(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.
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:
http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/2014/09/04/school-sends-letter-to-parents-about-transgender-student/15098829/ The letter that the school wrote is here… http://archive.wcsh6.com/assetpool/documents/140904073029_Transgender%20Student.pdf
NOTE – transgender students in CT have the same rights under PA 11-55 –
See also – http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/title_ix/guidelines_for_schools_on_gender_identity_and_expression2012oct4.pdf
Maine Supreme Court just handed down a ruling in the case of the trans-girl that was denied the use of the girl’s bathroom.
Breakthrough Ruling in Favor of Transgender Student
Transgender Students Must Have Full Access to School Facilities, Says Maine High Court
Today, Maine’s highest court ruled that denying a transgender girl the use of the girls’ restroom at her school violated her rights under Maine’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people. The decision in GLAD’s lawsuit Doe v. Clenchy marks the first time a state court has ruled that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match who they are.
The ruling stated in part, “[The school] agreed with Susan’s family and counselors that, for this purpose (as for virtually all others), Susan is a girl. Based upon its determination that Susan is a girl, and in keeping with the information provided to the school by Susan’s family, her therapists, and experts in the field of transgender children, the school determined that Susan should use the girls’ bathroom.”
“This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, who argued the case before the Maine Law Court on June 12. “Schools have a responsibility to create a learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students this includes access to all school facilities, programs, and extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.”
“A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls’ restroom. This ruling is consistent with what educators and human rights commissions – including the Maine Human Rights Commission — around the country have concluded,” said GLAD Senior Attorney Bennett Klein, who was co-counsel with Levi in the case.
The litigation arose after officials at an Orono elementary school denied Nicole Maines, a transgender girl who was then in fifth grade, use of the girls’ restroom. The school had previously allowed Nicole to use the girls’ room but reversed course after the misconduct of one male student who followed Nicole into that facility.
“We are very grateful and relieved that the Court said our daughter should not be singled out for different treatment at school simply because she is transgender,” said Wayne Maines, Nicole’s father. “As parents all we’ve ever wanted is for Nicole and her brother Jonas to get a good education and to be treated just like their classmates, and that didn’t happen for Nicole. What happened to my daughter was extremely painful for her and our whole family, but we can now close this very difficult chapter in our lives. We are very happy knowing that because of this ruling, no other transgender child in Maine will have to endure what Nicole experienced.”
GLAD and Jodi L. Nofsinger of Berman & Simmons, P.A. represented Susan in the lawsuit.
Learn more about the case and read previous case documents here. http://www.glad.org/work/cases/doe-v.-clenchy
Inside the families embracing the new world of gender variance
Since the summer of 2012, Olie Pullen has kept in her bedroom closet a Wonder Woman costume, which she loves, but has struggled to actually wear. The plan had been to don it on Halloween two years ago, but when that day came, Olie, now 11, chose to be a vampire instead. Dressing up in the red and blue costume would have exposed her at school and around her Montreal neighbourhood in a way that didn’t feel right yet: Olie was, after all, born a boy. Oliver.
When he was a toddler, at his own insistence and to the surprise of his parents, Oliver began playing with princess dresses and dolls. He wore skirts, first at home and then out, along with glittery shirts and skinny jeans, and eventually grew his blond hair long. Recently, Oliver started wearing a padded bra and taking hormone blockers to suppress male puberty. He had his name legally changed to Olie, and only responds to female pronouns. Oliver the boy is now Olie the girl. And for the first time ever, she’s comfortable. “The best part is that I feel I’m in the right body,” says Olie. “I feel like, well, I feel good.” read more …………
This is a very significant court case regarding the rights of transgender students. See attached official documents.
From: USDOJ-Office of Public Affairs (SMO)
Sent: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:07 PM
To: USDOJ-Office of Public Affairs (SMO)
Subject: UNITED STATES REACHES AGREEMENT WITH ARCADIA, CALIFORNIA, SCHOOL DISTRICT TO RESOLVE SEX DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS
Note: A copy of the agreement and closure letter are attached in pdf format.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CRT
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2013 (202) 514-2007
WWW.JUSTICE.GOV TTY (866) 544-5309
UNITED STATES REACHES AGREEMENT WITH ARCADIA, CALIFORNIA, SCHOOL DISTRICT TO RESOLVE SEX DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS
WASHINGTON – The United States entered into a settlement agreement with the Arcadia Unified School District in Arcadia, Calif., to resolve an investigation into allegations of discrimination against a transgender student based on the student’s sex. Under the agreement, approved by the district’s school board unanimously last night, the school district will take a number of steps to ensure that the student, whose gender identity is male and who has consistently and uniformly presented as a boy at school and in all other aspects of his life for several years, will be treated like other male students while attending school in the district.
The agreement, joined by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which participated in the investigation, resolves a complaint filed in October 2011. The complaint alleged that the district had prohibited the student from accessing facilities consistent with his male gender identity, including restrooms and locker rooms at school, as well as sex-specific overnight accommodations at a school-sponsored trip, because he is transgender. The United States investigated this complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both Title IX and Title IV prohibit discrimination against students based on sex.
Under the settlement agreement, the district will:
Additionally, the district will take a number of steps to treat the student like all other male students in the education programs and activities offered by the district. The district-wide provisions of the agreement will be in place until the end of the 2015-2016 school year. The student-specific provisions of the agreement will be in place as long as the student is enrolled in the district.
“All students, including transgender students, have the right to attend school free from discrimination based on their sex,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We commend the district for taking affirmative steps to ensure that this student and his peers can continue to learn and thrive in a safe and nondiscriminatory environment.”
“Our commitment to civil rights enforcement runs deep and nowhere is that commitment more meaningful than in our schools,” said André Birotte, Jr., United States Attorney for the Central District of California. “This agreement helps ensure continued advancement towards equal rights under the law for all students.”
In recent years, the Justice Department and the Department of Education resolved a number of cases involving gender-based harassment in public schools. In 2012, the departments entered into a consent decree addressing harassment against students who do not conform to gender stereotypes in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Minn. In 2011, the departments entered into an agreement with the Tehachapi Unified School District, Calif., to resolve a similar complaint of harassment against a gay student who did not conform to gender stereotypes.
Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 each prohibit harassment based on sex. The enforcement of Title IV and Title IX are top priorities of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.