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VICTORY: California Transgender Student Guaranteed Equal Access To School Facilities

By Zack Ford on July 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

"VICTORY: California Transgender Student Guaranteed Equal Access To School Facilities"

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Damian Garcia, a trans student from New Mexico who protested his school's decision to not recognize his identity at graduation this year. (Credit: Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A California school has settled a complaint filed with the federal government, agreeing to update its policies to be fully inclusive of transgender students. A trans student, whose identity has been kept private, filed a complaint after officials at Arcadia Unified School District prevented him from using the boys’ restroom or locker room, and also forced him to room in a cabin separate from the other boys on a field trip. Now, the school has worked out an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to implement nondiscrimination policies throughout the district to protect both the privacy and inclusion of transgender students.

The student in this case was forced to use the health office to change his clothes and go to the bathroom, resulting in him regularly missing class time. He would be dismissed early from his physical education classes just so he’d have time to change, but would also be late to other classes because of how far away the health office was. Sometimes it would be locked, requiring him to find an employee to unlock it for him, and the situation became so untenable he simply avoided going to the bathroom altogether while at school.

According to the agreement with the government, the school will ensure no student ever faces such embarrassing or unfeasible circumstances in the future, including:

  • The district will provide the student access to all sex-specific facilities, including overnight events and extracurricular activities, respecting when he may request private facilities for privacy, safety, or other concerns.
  • The district will ensure that any records containing the student’s pre-transition birth name or assigned sex are treated as confidential and not disclosed to any employees, students, or others without the consent of his parents.
  • If requested, the school will offer a support team to help protect the student from gender-based discrimination.
  • The district will revise all of its policies, procedures, and regulations related to discrimination and harassment to specifically include gender-based discrimination, including discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, gender expression, gender transition, transgender status, or gender nonconformity.
  • The district will ensure all programs and activities are offered with equal access to all students, including those who are transgender or gender nonconforming.
  • All of these changes will be implemented with the support of an agreed-upon outside consultant, and the district will report back on their implementation.

The settlement is an incredible victory for transgender students, as it sets a precedent for what protections the federal government can expect from a school, at least as long as a pro-LGBT administration is in power. Notably, the school cited the “safety and privacy” of other students as its rationale for ostracizing the trans student, but the investigation concluded that no such concerns exist.

This legal victory coincides with the advancement of legislation in California (AB 1266) that would similarly protect trans students and ensure their full inclusion in schools. Claiming it will harm children, conservatives have urged Gov. Jerry Brown (D) not to sign it into law. This past Sunday, California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D) passionately defended the bill lawmakers passed, highlighting the “boy in the girls’ locker room” misconceptions people have about transgender people:

PEREZ: You’re buying into the concept that the kid who would be coming into that locker room looks like a boy. What you’re going to find is someone who looks like a girl, who presents as a girl, who identifies as a girl, who’s trying to be treated as the girl that she knows she is. Now in government, it is important that we stand up and look for the rights of marginalized individuals and individuals that don’t have much of a voice. And that’s what this bill speaks to.

With both federal and state protections in place, schools could become a much safer place for transgender students, who currently experience incredibly high rates of bullying and cyberbullying. Implementing such model policies of inclusion, as Massachusetts has done, for example, ensures that education and intervention protect trans students’ learning experiences.

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