New guidelines on how to protect transgender students were sent to school districts Sept. 27 by the New Jersey Department of Education.

The guidelines reinforced protections for transgender students concerning use of restrooms and locker rooms.

According to the guidance:

  • School districts must ensure that a transgender student is addressed at school by the name and pronoun chosen by the student, regardless of whether a legal name change or change in official school records has occurred.
  • School districts shall issue school documentation for a transgender student, such as student identification cards, in the name chosen by the student.
  • A transgender student shall be allowed to dress in accordance with the student’s gender identity.

A school district shall accept a student’s asserted gender identity, and parental consent is not required, according to the NJDOE guidance. Further, a student need not meet any threshold diagnosis or treatment requirements to have his or her gender identity recognized and respected by the school district. A court-ordered name change is not required, and school district personnel are not required to notify a student’s parent or guardian of the student’s gender identity or expression.

School districts must comply with N.J.S.A. 18A:37-15 and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7, which prohibit harassment, intimidation and bullying, and require that each district board of education develop, adopt, and implement a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying on school property, at a school-sponsored function or on a school bus.

If harassment based on gender identity creates a hostile environment, the school must take prompt and effective steps to end the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.

The 2017 law protecting transgender students was signed by former Gov. Chris Christie, but guidelines were not issued until last week. The law was designed to replace federal guidance on transgender rights issued by President Barack Obama and later rescinded under the Trump administration.

The NJSBA was represented on the Department of Education’s Transgender Working Group, which developed the new guidance document. In comparison to previous guidance from NJDOE, the latest document covers new ground under the area of “confidentiality and privacy” and the adoption of a confidentiality plan.

NJSBA will be updating its sample policy, issued previously, to add a section on the confidentiality plan referenced in the NJDOE guidance document. The NJSBA will also be updating the definitions in the sample policy so that they are consistent with the new state guidance.

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