Dept. of Ed.: Title IX Protects Trans Students


U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Clarifying Title IX Protections for Transgender Students

Move by Office of Civil Rights Long Sought by GLSEN, Partners

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 29, 2014) —The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education today issued official guidance which makes clear that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Specifically, the guidance states that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.”

The statement is part of broader guidance on sexual violence and the responsibility that schools have to protect all students. The Department has brought enforcement actions against school districts in the past on behalf of transgender students, but had not previously made such a proactive public statement about their commitment. GLSEN and other advocates for LGBT youth had long sought such a statement regarding the protections available to transgender students under Title IX to ensure that schools had no doubt as to their responsibilities.

“Make no mistake: transgender students are protected by Title IX, and the U.S. Department of Education stands ready to help them,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “We thank the Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon for making this commitment so clear.”

Findings from GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey indicate that 80% of transgender students experience a more hostile school climate and feel unsafe at school because of who they are. While the guidance does not explicitly address specific forms of discrimination against transgender students, and while the protection is provided in the context of physical or sexual violence, Title IX protections extend to all forms of discrimination in education. 

“We must make sure that transgender students and their families know that help is available,” Byard continued, “and that they report incidents to the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

Violations of Title IX protections should be reported to the Office of Civil Rights, and GLSEN has guidance on incident reporting available here. For schools and districts needing to update their policies to protect transgender students, GLSEN has a model policy available, developed in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality: Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.