A federal directive last week which mandates that public schools permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity is consistent with NJSBA’s understanding of federal law and court decisions.
The directive, issued by the federal department of Education and Justice amid a high-profile court fight between the federal government and North Carolina, says public schools are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.
“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 in a statement accompanying the directive, which was sent to school districts last week.
NJSBA in 2014 developed a sample policy on Gender Identity and Expression, following requests from members. The sample policy is based on a document developed by the New York City Department of Education, then modified to reflect New Jersey law, regulation and court decisions. NJSBA’s Policy Service indicates that it is the most requested policy sample in the Association’s library.
NJSBA received numerous inquiries about the new federal directive last week. The Association’s initial impression is that the information concerning access to facilities, based on gender-identification, is consistent with NJSBA’s understanding of federal law and court decisions. The full text of the directive is being reviewed.
The directive from the Obama administration does not impose any new legal requirements, but in published reports, officials said it’s meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government. Educators have been seeking guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.
“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,” King said.
Under the guidance, schools are told that they must treat transgender students according to their chosen gender identity as soon as a parent or guardian notifies the district that that identity “differs from previous representations or records.” There is no obligation for a student to present a specific medical diagnosis or identification documents that reflect his or her gender identity, and equal access must be given to transgender students even in instances when it makes others uncomfortable, according to the directive.