Feds address transgender

Published 2:43 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Obama Administration on Friday issued guidance to public schools on the treatment of and accommodations of transgender students.


The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a joint statement Friday with guidelines to schools to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

The guidance comes to public schools after an uproar in North Carolina about transgender people using bathrooms of the gender in which they identify, after a law was passed that requires bathroom use to be determined by the gender of which a person is born.

In Alabama, the east Alabama city of Oxford, passed a similar law, but recently rescinded it.

A letter was sent to public schools around the country containing “significant guidance.”

Among the requirements is to allow transgender students the use of restrooms and locker rooms that align with the gender identity, not the biological gender.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a press release Friday. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies. I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education – and with schools across the country – to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing and inclusive for all of our young people.”

The guidance explains that when students or their parents, as appropriate, notify a school that a student is transgender, the school must treat the student consistent with the student’s gender identity.

A school may not require transgender students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment or produce a birth certificate or other identification document before treating them consistently with their gender identity.

The schools have the following obligations to:

• Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a school’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status or gender transition;

• Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;

• Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and

• Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Failure to comply with guidance could result in loss of federal funding or civil rights lawsuits.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson, Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver and Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart released a combined statement on the matter.

“As many of you have heard through local and national media sources, the United States Department of Education and United States Department of Justice issued guidance this morning regarding the proper treatment of transgender students in our public schools. We want to assure our students, parents and community stakeholders that our goal today is the same as it was yesterday: to provide a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all of our students so that they are able to learn to their full potential. We are carefully reviewing the guidance to determine what, if any, changes are needed to be considered moving forward. After close consultation with legal counsel and others representing public school interests, should any change be needed in our programs, policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the law, we will give our students, parents and community clear and ample notice.”