Agreement Affirms that Transgender Students Are Entitled to Equal Access in Schools
(San Francisco, CA, July 24, 2013)—Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced a resolution to a complaint filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) on behalf of a transgender student in California’s Arcadia Unified School District. The resolution requires the school district to treat the student as male in all respects and keep his transgender status private. Furthermore, the school district agreed to revise its policies to ensure that all students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, including transgender students, have equal access and opportunity to participate in all of the district’s activities and programs. Those policy changes will be complemented by district-wide training for personnel and students. The implementation of this agreement will be overseen by a qualified expert agreed upon by the district and federal government.
The student and his family—who asked that their names not be made public--filed a complaint with OCR and DOJ in October 2011 when the school district required him to sleep in a cabin by himself instead of allowing him to room with his male peers on an overnight field trip. Not wanting to miss out on this important educational opportunity, he attended the field trip, but could not escape the feeling that he was being "quarantined" for no legitimate reason.
In addition to preventing him from fully participating in the overnight field trip, the school district excluded the student from the boys’ restroom and locker room, insisting that he use the nurse’s office. That arrangement resulted in the student being ridiculed by peers and limited his ability to participate in afterschool activities because the nurse’s restroom was locked during those times.
The student and his family are represented by the NCLR.
"I am glad that my school district has agreed to put in place the protections that I, and other transgender students, need to feel safe and welcome in school," said the student. "Knowing that I have the school district’s suppport, I can focus on learning and being a typical high school student, like my friends."
Said NCLR Staff Attorney Asaf Orr: "We commend the federal government for taking this necessary step to ensure that schools are safe and supportive environments where all students can thrive, including transgender students. Federal law obligates school districts to affirm and respect a transgender student’s gender identity in all of their programs, activities, and facilities. Treating transgender students based on their assigned sex at birth is psychologically harmful and interferes with their healthy social development. Hopefully, school districts will take this opportunity to proactively address the needs of transgender youth through district-wide policies and training."