Federal government stands by transgender students’ rights

Arcadia Unified School District’s policy on transgender students guides educators to respect students’ self reported gender identities.

On June 30, the U.S. Department of Justice affirmed that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students in a brief filed after the American Civil Liberties Union’s complaint on behalf of a transgender boy whose school policy required transgender students to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity. On July 10, the DOJ and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights approved the school district’s new policy on transgender students.

The DOJ and the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights further established their support for transgender youth when they approved the Arcadia Unified School District’s policy on transgender students which requires educators and administrators to respect and accept students’ self-reported gender identities without any medical justification or legal changes to records.

More specifically, the policy emphasizes that there is no “medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment threshold that students must meet in order to have their gender identity recognized or respected.” It mandates that that “school personnel must be mindful of the confidentiality and privacy rights of students when communicating with others, so as to not reveal, imply, or refer to a student’s gender identity or expression” and that “students shall be addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity asserted at school without obtaining a court order, changing their official records or obtaining parent/legal guardian permission.” It also establishes that transgender students should have access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The policy bulletin begins by citing various clauses in the California Education code relating to gender with the purpose of ensuring the “protection, respectful treatment, and equal access to educational programs and activities for transgender students.” It even provides a list of definitions to distinguish terms including gender, gender identity, gender expression, gender nonconforming, transgender, gender transition, LGBTQ, sex, and sexual orientation.

The importance of student safety in terms of bullying and harassment of transgender students is also emphasized in the policy. Students, staff, and administration are all encouraged to report discrimination against transgender students. Allowing students to participate in sports activities consistent with their gender identity is also touched on in the policy.

Asaf Orr, National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and lead attorney in Student v Arcadia Unified School District, released the following statement: “The federal government’s approval of this policy further solidifies the right of transgender students to be affirmed and respected in school. We commend both the federal government and the Arcadia Unified School District for taking this important step. We look forward continuing to strengthen legal protections for transgender students by assisting school districts throughout the country in adopting policies that safeguard the right of transgender students to go to school in a safe and welcoming environment.”

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