Report delivered to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos showing impact of anti-transgender policies on 150,000 transgender youth
As politicians in states like Texas and North Carolina fight to restrict transgender students’ access to bathrooms, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and GLSEN, in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Education Association (NEA) have released a new report Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities showing how profoundly harmful and unnecessary policies that exclude transgender students from school facilities that match their gender can be on these children.
MAP, GLSEN, NCTE, and the NEA sent the report and an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, highlighting the hundreds of local school districts across the country, as well as 13 states and the District of Columbia, that have proven they can successfully implement laws and policies protecting transgender students from discrimination while still meeting the needs of all students.
“Having inclusive school policies does nothing to diminish schools’ legal obligation to ensure safe education facilities and to act if a student behaves inappropriately or tries to invade someone’s privacy. If any student attempts to abuse an inclusive policy, schools can and will take action. And schools can also offer privacy options for any student who simply feels uncomfortable,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of MAP. “On the surface, the argument is about bathrooms, but at a deeper level, it is about whether or not transgender students will be included in our public education system. Put simply, if transgender students cannot safely access a bathroom, they cannot safely attend school.”
Learning from local success, in 2014, the Obama administration issued official guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination based on Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination. However, the Trump administration recently rescinded that guidance, signaling that transgender students cannot count on their federal government for support or protection. The administration’s action also caused the U.S. Supreme Court to withdraw its decision to hear arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, in which the Court would have considered whether Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination protects transgender students.
And, with the new administration rescinding its previous guidance, more states are considering discriminatory laws. Seventeen states have introduced legislation that seeks to limit school districts’ ability to provide access to school restrooms and locker rooms for transgender students. Although the text of the bills varies from state to state, these bills are generally designed to ensure transgender students are relegated to separate facilities, or facilities that align with the sex on their birth certificate. Bills like these tie the hands of local school administrators and make school environments even more difficult and dangerous for already-vulnerable transgender students.
GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey provides a chilling snapshot of the experiences of transgender students in school. As reviewed in this report, three quarters (75%) of transgender students felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression; half reported being unable to use the name or pronoun that matched their identity; and 70% reported avoiding bathrooms, which can lead to significant health problems.
“As adults argue about whether to allow transgender students to use facilities that match the gender they live every day, it is transgender students who pay a heavy personal price,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN. “We have a responsibility to ensure all students have a fair chance to succeed in school and to be protected from discrimination and bullying. And school administrators around the country have proven they can meet the needs of all students when politicians don’t stand in their way.”
Click here to read the report: lgbtmap.org/policy-and-issue-analysis/transgender-youth-school.
Click here to read the open letter to Secretary DeVos: glsen.org/blog/besty-devos.