Education and Justice Departments Say Federal Transgender Guidance to Schools Is in Response to Public Demand

By Penny Starr | May 20, 2016 | 2:32pm EDT


( – In a blog posted on the Department of Education’s website on May 13, the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights for the Department and Education and her counterpart at the Department of Justice cited a “growing chorus of educators, parents and students from around the country” as the reason that the agencies issued “guidance” to public schools on the treatment of transgender students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The guidance – issued on May 13 -- includes the possibility of losing federal dollars if it is not implemented into school policy.

“Schools want to do right by all of their students and have looked to us to provide guidance on steps they can take to ensure that every student is comfortable at their school, is in an environment free of discrimination, and has an opportunity to thrive,” the blog written by DOE’s Catherine Lhamon and DOJ’s Vanita Gupta said.

School Principals Weigh In

One group cited in the blog as asking the federal government for guidance for transgender students is the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), which put out a position statement on May 5, which DOE and DOJ said called for “guidance and best practices on creating an inclusive and respectful environment.”

The purpose cited in the lengthy NASSP position statement, which cited the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as a source for its data on transgender students in public schools, stated: “To acknowledge concerns related to marginalization and institutional bias associated with transgender students; state the association's opposition to legislation and policies that discriminate against transgender students; and to provide recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and school leaders on how to better support transgender students in the K-12 education system.”

Among the recommendations in the NASSP statement was asking federal and state policymakers to “enact legislation to provide a comprehensive federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.”

It also tells local school officials to put transgender policies in place, including assisting schools to “update their facilities to include gender neutral restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms.” It also calls on schools to train student leaders “so that they are able to communicate and model respect for the gender identity of all students.”

The statement said the “rights” of transgender students include using the student’s “preferred name and pronoun” that “affirms his or her gender identity,” and use of bathrooms and locker rooms “consistent with their gender identity or gender expression.”

It also states that on school-sponsored overnight trips, students should be allowed to “room with peers that match their gender identity.”


Schools Advance Transgender Policies

The DOE and DOJ blog also links to a DOE document entitled “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students” that was published this month. It includes practices already in place at schools across the country, including how to deal with students who “undergo a gender transition during the school year.”

States and cities cited for having some transgender student policies already in place include Alaska, California, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Kansas City Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District, Minneapolis Public Schools, and the District of Columbia.

The report noted that the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s policy states that “all students should have the opportunity to participate in athletics consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on school records.”

The DOE document noted that the policy at the Maryland Department of Education will no longer allow “gender-based sorting of students” but instead will sort students by birth date or by the color of the clothing they are wearing.

“Taken together, we hope these new resources assist everyone – from state and local leaders to educators to students and families – about how to create a safe, welcoming, and supportive learning environment for every student,” the DOE and DOJ blog concluded.

MRC Store