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SACRAMENTO—Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the historic School Success and Opportunity Act into law, ensuring transgender youth have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in schools across the state. Assembly Bill 1266—which goes into effect on January 1, 2014—was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and passed the California State Senate and Assembly earlier this summer. The law is the first of its kind in the country, and requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity.

“I’m so excited that California is making sure transgender students have a fair chance to graduate and succeed,” said Calen Valencia, an 18-year-old transgender student from Tulare. “I should have graduated this year, but my school refused to give me the same opportunity to succeed as other boys. Now other transgender youth won’t have to choose between being themselves and graduating high school.”

Co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the bill is backed by a coalition of leading organizations, including Transgender Law Center, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, Equality California, ACLU of California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.

The new law builds on a national movement to end discriminatory practices and ensure transgender youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other students. Massachusetts and Colorado have statewide policies in line with AB 1266, and the Colorado and Maine state human rights commissions have held that state law requires schools to respect students’ gender identity. Additionally, many school districts across the country have adopted policies that ensure no student is left out, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district.

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students have been often discriminated against and unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities, and facilities. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education credits are required to graduate, but transgender students often do not have the support they need to fully participate in the courses.

The supporting organizations are truly appreciative of Gov. Brown’s efforts to protect LGBT Californians and ensure all students have the opportunity to excel in our public education system. From his support to ban harmful sexual orientation change efforts to his leadership on marriage equality to his signing of AB 1266, Gov. Brown has sent a powerful message to LGBT youth letting them know their state and their government fully support them. In so doing, he is not only changing, but also saving lives.

“Today I am reminded why I left my birth home in the Midwest to become a Californian. I am so proud of this state and its leaders. On behalf of Transgender Law Center and the many youth and families we serve, I extend our deepest gratitude to the Governor, Assembly and Senate for the passage and signing of this bill,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates.”

Frequently Asked Questions (download .pdf)

1. What is the School Success and Opportunity Act?

Introduced in February 2013 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara, the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) restates the obligation of California schools to allow transgender students to participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities.

2. Why is the School Success and Opportunity Act necessary?

Every student should have a fair chance to fully participate and succeed in school so that they can graduate with their classmates. But in many cases, students who are transgender are unable to get the credits they need to graduate on time when they do not have a place to get ready for gym class. They are denied important educational opportunities when they are not allowed to participate in school activities based on who they are.

While existing law already broadly prohibits discrimination against transgender students, AB 1266 will make sure that schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students and that parents and students understand their rights.

3. What will the School Success and Opportunity Act do?

AB 1266 reaffirms to school districts, teachers, parents and students that California’s nondiscrimination law requires public schools to respect a transgender student’s identity in all school programs, activities, and facilities. This bill will simply ensure that transgender boys and girls are treated just like all other boys and girls so that they can participate fully in school activities and graduate on time.

4. What impact will the School Success and Opportunity Act have on schools?

This bill will make sure that school administrators know their responsibilities to ensure that all students have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in school. LAUSD and other districts have successfully implemented policies in line with this law that ensure that no one is left out.

5. How much will the School Success and Opportunity Act cost?

This bill does not require schools to create new programs or new facilities for any students, so it does not carry a cost. In fact, making sure schools know their responsibilities may help avoid costly lawsuits.