In a “Dear Colleague” letter, the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued guidance today making it clear that schools must treat transgender students according to their gender identity in all respects and cannot ban transgender students from using facilities that match the gender they live as every day.
Transgender Law Center praised the guidance with a statement from executive director Kris Hayashi:
“At a time when too many schools and states are targeting transgender youth for harassment and discrimination, we are grateful to the Department of Education and Department of Justice for issuing this clear guidance on schools’ responsibilities to treat all students fairly. Transgender students, like all students, just want to be able to go to school, be with their friends, and get an education without having to worry about being singled out and made to feel different. It is time for all schools to follow the law and do what’s best for all of their students.”
The letter from the DOE and DOJ states that “a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”
Yesterday, Transgender Law Center filed a complaint with the Department of Education on behalf of a 16-year-old transgender boy, Ashton Whitaker, who has been banned from using the boys’ bathroom at his Wisconsin high school.
“I hope that this guidance will help my school understand that they have to treat me and other transgender students fairly,” said Ashton. “Being banned from the boys’ bathroom is a daily reminder that school administrators see me as someone who is so different from the other students that I’m not even allowed to share a bathroom with them. School is no longer the safe and welcoming place that it used to be.”
Today’s guidance from the Department of Education and Department of Justice details schools’ responsibility to treat transgender students equally in all aspects of student life, including providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment; identity documents, names, and pronouns; sex-segregated activities and facilities; and privacy and education records.
Regarding facilities, the letter clearly states that a “school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, the federal agency tasked with enforcing Title IX, has long interpreted Title IX to require schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity and to allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedent-setting ruling in a case brought by a Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, stating that Title IX prohibits schools from banning transgender students from restrooms that match their gender identity. School districts that do not comply with Title IX’s requirements risk losing federal funding.
In addition to the letter, the Department of Education provided a 25-page document with examples of “policies and emerging best practices for supporting transgender students.”
Read the letter below!