The purpose of this policy is:
(1) to foster an educational environment that is safe, welcoming, and free from stigma and discrimination for all students, regardless of gender identity or expression,
(2) to facilitate compliance with local, state and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment, privacy, and discrimination,
(3) to ensure that all students have the opportunity to express themselves and live authentically.
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
Transgender and gender nonconforming youth may use different words to describe their lives and experiences of gender. Terminology and language can differ based on region, language, race or ethnicity, age, culture, and many other factors. Some examples of terms used by some youth include trans, trans girl, trans boy, non-binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, and Two Spirit. These terms often mean different things or refer to different experiences of gender. School staff and educators should use the terms that students use to describe themselves and avoid terms that make these students uncomfortable.
These definitions are provided not for the purpose of labeling students but rather to assist in understanding this policy and the legal obligations of school and district personnel. Students may or may not use these terms to describe themselves or their experiences.
BULLYING: Written, verbal, or physical conduct, including via electronic communication, that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student’s ability to participate in, or benefit from, a program or activity of a public school or local educational agency; or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment, adversely affecting a student’s education, including acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression or intimidation. This includes bullying that is based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or another distinguishing characteristic. This also includes conduct that targets a student because of a characteristic of a friend, family member, or other person or group with whom a student associates. Bullying is frequently referred to as harassment when it pertains to a characteristic protected by non-discrimination laws.
GENDER EXPRESSION: The manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, or mannerisms.
GENDER IDENTITY: A person’s deeply held knowledge of their own gender, which can include being female, male, another gender, or no gender. Gender identity is an innate and largely inflexible part of a person’s identity. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the gender assigned at birth. The responsibility for determining an individual’s gender identity rests with the individual. Children typically begin to understand their own gender identity by age four, although the age at which individuals come to understand and express their gender identity may vary based on each person’s social and familial development.
GENDER NONCONFORMING: A term sometimes used to describe people whose gender expression differs from stereotypical expectations, such as “feminine” boys, “masculine” girls, and people who are perceived as androgynous in some way. Most gender nonconforming people are not transgender. For example, a non-transgender girl who has short hair and likes sports might be considered gender nonconforming. The term “gender nonconforming” is also sometimes used to refer to people whose gender identity is not male or female.
NONBINARY/GENDERQUEER: These are terms often used to describe people whose gender is not exclusively male or female, including those who identify with a gender other than male or female, as more than one gender, or as no gender.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: A person’s romantic and/or physical attraction to people of the same and/or another gender, such as being straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual. Transgender and gender nonconforming people may have any sexual orientation.
TRANSGENDER: An adjective describing a person whose gender identity is different from that traditionally associated with the gender they were thought to be when they were born. A transgender girl is a girl who was thought to be male when she was born. A transgender boy is a boy who was thought to be female when he was born. Some transgender people have a gender that is neither male nor female, and may use terms like non-binary to describe their gender.
TRANSITION: The process in which a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were thought to be at birth. Transition is a process that is different for everyone, and it may or may not involve social, legal, or physical changes. There is no one step or set of steps that an individual must undergo in order to have their gender identity affirmed and respected.
DETERMINING GENDER IDENTITY
Gender identity is a core aspect of personal identity. The model policy is based on the basic principle that only an individual can determine their own gender identity. This approach is consistent with current best practices and state and federal law.
Schools should avoid requiring medical, legal, or other “proof” in order to respect a student’s gender identity. The decision to undergo a particular medical treatment as part of a transition is a very personal decision that must be left to the student, their family, and their healthcare provider. In addition to being overly invasive, such a requirement does not account for the many barriers transgender youth experience trying to access transition-related medical care. It is similarly inappropriate to require specific court orders or changes to government-issued identity documents. Additionally, some students do not want or need medical care. Due to varying state and federal policies, transgender youth very often are unable to change government-issued identity documents and other records to correspond to their chosen name and appropriate gender. In fact, some states do not allow correction of gender markers at all, and many allow individuals to change their gender marker on identity documents only upon the completion of medical procedures that are unavailable to youth.
Schools have found that in practice it is not difficult to verify that a student is really transgender, regardless of whether they can present medical or legal evidence. In rare cases where a school administrator suspects that a student is initiating a formal process to discuss a transition for an improper purpose, the administrator can seek additional clarification about the student’s needs and objectives.
All persons, including students, have a right to privacy, and this includes the right to keep one’s transgender status private at school. Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth constitutes confidential personally identifiable and medical information. Disclosing this information to other students or parents or other third parties may violate privacy laws, such as the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as constitutional privacy protections. Additionally, disclosure or misuse of this information may establish a hostile environment for a transgender or gender nonconforming student, potentially subjecting them to bullying and harassment by peers, discrimination by school staff, or family rejection.
Media and Community Communication
When communicating to the media or community about issues related to gender identity or expression, the school or District shall have a single spokesperson to address the issue. Rather than directly commenting on the issue, other District and school staff shall direct parents and the media to the designated spokesperson. Protecting the privacy of transgender and gender nonconforming students must be a top priority for the spokesperson and all staff, and all personally identifiable and medical information shall be kept strictly confidential, in accordance with local, state, and federal privacy laws.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR RESTROOMS, LOCKER ROOMS, OR CHANGING FACILITIES
The model policy ensures equal access to all school facilities by making clear that all students have the right to be treated according to their gender identity. At the same time, the model policy also acknowledges that some students, for a variety of reasons, may feel uncomfortable using shared facilities. This may include transgender students, students with disabilities or physical differences, students who are reluctant to use facilities alongside a transgender student, or other students. The model policy provides for accommodating students upon request by providing a safe and non-stigmatizing alternative.
Other Gender-Based Activities, Rules, Policies and Practices
As a general matter, schools should evaluate all gender-based activities, rules, policies, and practices—including classroom activities, school ceremonies, and school photos—and maintain only those that serve an important educational purpose. Students shall be permitted to participate in any such activities or conform to any such rule, policy, or practice consistent with their gender identity
Schools may enforce dress codes pursuant to District policy, but any such dress codes may not be enforced based on gender or gender stereotypes. Students shall have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity and expression, including maintaining a gender neutral appearance within the constraints of the dress codes adopted by the school. School staff shall not enforce a school’s dress code more strictly against transgender and gender nonconforming students than other students.
DRESS CODE ALTERNATIVES
Increasingly, school districts are adopting dress codes that do not have separate rules based on gender. Under these policies, all students have access to the same clothing options regardless of gender, and students cannot be disciplined for wearing clothes associated with a particular gender if those clothes otherwise comply with the dress codes. For example, a school’s dress code might say, “Skirts or shorts may not end more than two inches above the knee” rather than “Girls may not wear skirts that end more than two inches above the knee.” This approach minimizes the risk of liability under the First Amendment and laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and gender expression.
While we strongly urge schools to adopt dress codes that are gender-neutral, any policies that are based on gender differences must permit students to dress in compliance with the school’s dress code consistent with their gender identity and expression.
The school shall accept the gender identity that each student asserts. There is no medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment threshold that students must meet in order to have their gender identity recognized and respected. The assertion may be evidenced by an expressed desire to be consistently recognized as the sex consistent with their gender identity. Students ready to socially transition may initiate a process to change their name, pronoun, attire, and access to gender-related programs, activities, and facilities consistent with their gender identity. Each student has a unique process for transitioning. The school shall customize support to optimize each student’s equal access to the District’s educational programs and activities.
MORE ON STUDENT TRANSITIONS
A student’s need to transition at school can come to the school’s attention in a number of ways. Most commonly for younger students, a parent or guardian may approach a school or district administrator about their child’s transition. In such a case, the administrator should meet with the parents and student to discuss the school’s role in supporting the student’s transition. This would include the timing of the transition, planning responses to questions from school staff and students, and correcting the student’s information in the school records, among other issues. This meeting should be conducted without any additional school personnel, unless the family or student specifically requests or consents to their presence.
Students, even elementary-age students, can also be the ones to bring up their need to transition at school. In these instances, administrators and educators should find ways to create a safe and affirming learning environment for the student. As part of supporting the student, administrators and educators must be mindful of the fact that many transgender students experience significant levels of family rejection. Thus, in situations where a student brings up their transition without their parents, it is important to speak with the student prior to involving parents, guardians, or other family members to determine whether doing so would be safe and support the student’s health and well-being. If the student believes that the family will be supportive, the administrator should, with the student’s consent, arrange a meeting with the family to discuss the student’s transition. Again, the planning for this meeting should involve the student to determine what role, if any, the student would like to play during the meeting. For example, in some instances a student may want to disclose their transgender status themselves, while in others the student may not want to be at the meeting at all. In either scenario, the administrator should be prepared to discuss how this issue is affecting the student in school and the importance of family acceptance to a student’s short- and long-term well-being.
Schools must create safe and affirming school environments for transgender students, even if the student’s family is unsupportive. In those instances, the administrator should meet with the student to discuss the ways that the school can support the student, such as providing access to the appropriate restroom or use of a chosen name. That discussion should also include what the school and district can do to support the student’s safety at home, which could include providing the family with resources to better understand their child’s needs and contingency planning for the possibility that the family inadvertently finds out the child’s transgender status. Regardless, schools should respect a student’s gender identity or expression regardless of whether or not a family is supportive.
WORKING WITH PARENTS AND FAMILIES
The parents and guardians of transgender and gender nonconforming students can play a critical role in establishing a safe and affirming school environment. Transgender students are coming out and transitioning at earlier ages. Schools should work with supportive parents and guardians whenever possible to establish healthy communication and ensure the needs of these often vulnerable students are fully met.
Unfortunately, however, some transgender and gender nonconforming students face family rejection, which can result in negative outcomes, such as abuse or ejection from the home. Schools are responsible for ensuring a safe and affirming environment with equal opportunity for all students. The model policy aims to encourage supportive engagement with parents whenever possible and to prioritize the safety and well-being of students. Staff should take guidance from and work collaboratively with the student to ensure that the student remains safe, both at school and at home. This may include, for example, determining what information to share with the student’s parents or guardians; identifying resources that could assist the parents or guardians to better understand how to support their child; and determining a strategy for communicating with the student’s siblings as well as staff and other students.
Schools can play an important role in providing a place of acceptance for transgender and gender nonconforming students. School may be the only safe space where a student feels comfortable fully expressing their gender. Therefore it is critical that parental/guardian approval is never a prerequisite for respecting a student’s gender identity, including their chosen name and pronouns. Additionally, schools may be in a position to provide additional services, such as counseling, peer support through a school GSA, and referral to outside resources, to help a student cope with family rejection. When possible, school staff should facilitate family members’ understanding and acceptance of transgender and gender nonconforming students.
For more information about the importance of family acceptance of transgender and gender nonconforming and the role that schools can play, please see Schools in Transition: A Guide to Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools and A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children in the Resources section.
Training and Professional Development
The District shall conduct training for all staff members on their responsibilities under applicable laws and this policy, including teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers, and health staff. Information regarding this policy shall be incorporated into training for new school employees.
To the extent funding is available, the District shall implement ongoing professional development to build the skills of all staff members to prevent, identify and respond to bullying, harassment, and discrimination. The content of such professional development shall include, but not be limited to:
- terms, concepts, and current developmental understandings of gender identity, gender expression, and gender diversity in children and adolescents;
- developmentally appropriate strategies for communication with students and parents about issues related to gender identity and gender expression that protect student privacy;
- developmentally appropriate strategies for preventing and intervening in bullying incidents, including cyberbullying;
- classroom-management practices, curriculum, and resources that educators can integrate into their classrooms to help foster a more gender-inclusive environment for all students;
- school and District policies regarding bullying, harassment, discrimination, and suicide prevention and responsibilities of staff.
This policy will be distributed annually to students, parents/guardians, and staff, and it will also be included in any student codes of conduct, disciplinary policies, student handbooks, and school websites.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRANSGENDER AND GENDER NONCONFORMING STUDENTS
Discrimination often affects transgender and gender nonconforming students in particular ways that prevent them from fully participating in the school environment and impact their ability to learn. Discrimination can take forms such as ignoring or failing to respond to ongoing bullying and harassment, holding the student to strict or unreasonable applications of a school dress code, disclosing confidential information, preventing students from using appropriate restrooms, subjecting students to harassment and discriminatory discipline by teachers and staff (including the repeated and intentional use of the wrong name and pronouns), and even suspending or expelling students for reasons related to being transgender. By adopting policies such as this model, school districts will have procedures in place for creating a welcoming environment for all students and avoiding these forms of discrimination.
Numerous studies demonstrate that the bullying, harassment, and discrimination faced by transgender and gender nonconforming students is often pervasive. According to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey (see Resources section), a large majority (76%) of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of their gender, 65% have experienced verbal harassment, 25% have been physically harassed, and 12% have been physically assaulted due to their gender expression. In addition to peer victimization, transgender students face high rates of discrimination by school officials: more than half (51%) of transgender students in the National School Climate Survey were prevented from using their chosen name and pronouns at school, 60% were required to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to the gender on their government IDs, and 28% of transgender students were prevented from wearing clothes because they were considered inappropriate based on the gender on their government IDs. Similarly, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, a survey of nearly 28,000 adults in the United States, found that 77% of those who were out or perceived as transgender in K-12 faced mistreatment because of being transgender, including 17% who left a school because of the severity of the mistreatment and 6% who were expelled.
A hostile school climate can negatively impact a student’s life trajectory from education and employment to long-term achievement and well-being. For example, the U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that those who were mistreated in school were more likely to have experienced homelessness, attempted suicide, and reported other negative experiences. Research also indicates that negative school climate is associated with transgender students missing days of school, earning lower grades, and not planning to go to college.
Adopting a policy that protects transgender students from discrimination can help ensure that these students have the same access to educational opportunities as any other student. This kind of policy ensures that students, parents, teachers, and school staff know that transgender students should be treated with respect, and it ensures that these expectations are clear to everyone and applied consistently. Indeed, research has demonstrated that transgender students in schools or districts with official policies that support transgender students are less likely to experience gender-related discrimination like being prevented from dressing according to their gender identity, accessing restrooms on an equal basis as other students, and using the name and pronoun that matches their gender.
American Civil Liberties Union, Gender Spectrum, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, & National Educational Association. (2015). Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools. Available at: www.nclrights.org/schoolsintransition
GLSEN. Changing the Game Resources. Available at: www.glsen.org/sports Griffin, P. & Carroll, H.J. (2010).
On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes. National Center for Lesbian Rights, Women’s Sports Foundation, and It Takes a Team!. On the Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes. Available at: www.nclrights.org/legal-help-resources/resource/on-the-teamequal-opportunities-for-transgender-student-athletes.
National Center for Transgender Equality. (2017). Know Your Rights: Schools. Available at: www.transequality.org/know-yourrights/schools
National Center for Transgender Equality. (2017). School Action Center. Available at: www.transequality.org/schoolaction
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Students. Available at: https://www.store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//PEP14-LGBTKIDS/ PEP14-LGBTKIDS.pdf
Sample and Model Policies
Arcadia Unified School District. (2015). Transgender Students – Ensuring Equity and Nondiscrimination. Available at: www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ Transgender-Policy-Bulletin-Approved-w-correctionsApril-2015.pdf
DC Public Schools. (2015). Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Policy Guidance. Available at: https://dcps.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dcps/publication/attachments/DCPS%20Transgender%20Gender%20Non%20 Conforming%20Policy%20Guidance.pdf
GLSEN. Model District Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy. Available at: www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/GLSEN%20 model%20district%20policy.pdf
GLSEN. Transgender Inclusion in High School Athletics. Available at: https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/ Transgender%20Inclusion%20in%20High%20School%20 Athletics_0.pdf
Los Angeles Unified School District. LGBTQ Student Resources/Supports: Related Policy and Resources. Available at: achieve.lausd.net/Page/3651.
The Trevor Project, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Association of School Psychologists, & the American School Counselor Association. Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention. Available at: www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/modelschoolpolicy
Selected State and Federal Guidance
Visit NCTE’s School Action Center for a complete list of state specific resources: www.transequality.org/schoolaction#StateGuidance
California Department of Education. (2013). Legal Advisory Regarding Application of California’s Antidiscrimination Statutes to Transgender Youth in Schools. Available at: www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/eo/legaladvisory.asp.
District of Columbia Public Schools. (2015). Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Policy Guidance. Available at: https://dcps.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dcps/publication/attachments/DCPS%20Transgender%20Gender%20Non%20Conforming%20Policy%20Guidance.pdf
Hawaii Department of Education. (2016). Guidance on Supports for Transgender Students. Available at: www.hawaiipublicschools.org/DOE%20Forms/Civil%20Rights/TransgenderSupports.pdf
Idaho School Board Association. (2015). Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. Available at: www.idahoednews.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/05/ISBA-gender-identity-policy.pdf.
Iowa Association of School Boards. (2016). Transgender Students in Iowa Schools: FAQs on the Law. Available at: www.idahoednews.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ISBAgender-identity-policy.pdf.
Minnesota School Safety Technical Assistance Council. (2017). A Toolkit for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students. Available at: https://www.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2017/other/170928.pdf
New York State Education Department. (2015). Guidance for Schools for Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students. Available at: www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/documents/Transg_GNCGuidanceFINAL.pdf
Selected Federal Resources
U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students. Available at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/emergingpractices.pdf
U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Dear Colleague Letter: Harassment and Bullying. Available at: www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/sac/06%20colleague-201010.pdf (includes information about bullying and harassment of LGBT students).
U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Legal Guidelines Regarding the Equal Access Act and the Recognition of Student-Led Noncurricular Groups. Available at: www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/groupsguidedoc (includes requirements regarding LGBT student groups).
U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Available at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-titleix.pdf (see page 5 for coverage of discrimination against transgender students).
U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Questions and Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Elementary and Second Classes and Extracurricular Activities. Available at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/faqs-title-ix-singlesex-201412.pdf.
U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Title IX Resource Guide. Available at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ dcl-title-ix-coordinators-guide-201504.pdf.
Research and Reports
James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality. Available at: www.ustranssurvey.org/report.
Greytak EA, Kosciw JG & Diaz EM. (2009). Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: GLSEN. Accessible at: http://www.glsen.org/research
Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C. & Danischewski, D. J. (2016). The 2015 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth in our Nation’s Schools. Available at: www.glsen.org/article/2015-national-schoolclimate-survey