You are here
Dept. of Ed. Turns Back on Trans Youth
Media Relations Manager
Department of Education Turns Back on Transgender Students
Department spokesperson confirms OCR will reject cases involving discriminatory bathroom bans
New York, NY (February 12th, 2018) – GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ youth, released the following statement today in response to media reports that the Department of Education will no longer investigate or take action on any complaints regarding transgender students who are banned from restrooms and school facilities that align with their gender identity.
“Today, a reporter has cut through months of obfuscation to force the Department of Education to reveal the full extent of its betrayal of transgender youth. The facts now on the table are devastating, though by now unsurprising,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN. “Congress created the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education in order to ensure that marginalized and vulnerable students had a champion. Under Secretary DeVos, the office has abdicated that solemn responsibility for transgender youth. OCR’s cruel new policy flies in the face of the highest court rulings on this issue, which found unequivocally that denying transgender students appropriate bathroom access is a violation of Title IX. However much it may hurt Secretary DeVos’ feelings to hear it, her actions and those of her Department are hurting transgender students in concrete and far-reaching ways,” concluded Byard.
One year ago, GLSEN worked with partner organizations to coordinate a meeting with Secretary DeVos, transgender students, and their parents, following the department’s decision to rescind the trans-inclusive Title IX guidance on February 23, 2017. In that meeting, DeVos expressed empathy for the plight of transgender students and promised that she would work to ensure that as a part of the school community, transgender students were protected from harassment and discrimination.
“Last March, my family took time to meet with Secretary DeVos at the Department of Education. She sat across the table from our family, and two other families, and expressed deep concern over the well-being of transgender students, like my daughter, Ellie” said Vanessa Ford, mother of a six-year-old transgender child. “During that meeting, DeVos looked me in the eyes and assured me she had my daughter’s safety in mind. However, today’s actions make it clear DeVos’ Department of Education has no desire to protect Ellie or the thousands like her.”
In response to recent reports about Secretary DeVos feeling “hurt” by advocates who have spoken up against discriminatory policies, Ford noted “You may be feeling hurt by such critique, but can you imagine how our nation’s youth are feeling knowing you won’t protect them? If you want people to be nice to you, do your job and protect all youth. Protect trans youth!"
The latest edition of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that 60% of transgender students report being banned from using school facilities that align with their gender identity. This same report found that LGBTQ students who do not face gender- or sexuality-related discrimination in school have better mental health outcomes.
Katharine Prescott, mother of Kyler, a trans student lost to suicide, said in response to today’s news, “The idea that the Department of Education will refuse to investigate or respond to complaints from transgender students who have faced discrimination at school is appalling. There is no question in my mind that barring a student from using the facilities that align with their gender identity is discrimination. If a transgender girl is forced to use the boys’ room at school, it places their safety and well-being in jeopardy. This denies her basic right to a public education. This administration continues to fail to protect our most vulnerable students, and that is a tragedy.”
LGBTQ students who experienced discrimination and harassment at school were more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month as those who did not, had lower GPAs, and had lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression. In the absence of protection from the Department of Education or national legislation, it’s increasingly necessary for schools, districts, and states to ensure clear and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ youth from harassment and discrimination in our nation’s K-12 schools. To this end, GLSEN has created model laws and policies for schools, districts, and states to ensure LGBTQ students are safe and affirmed at school, including a model district policy for accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students that comply with Title IX.
Today’s reports are part of a continued assault on the rights of LGBTQ students under the Trump Administration and can have far-reaching effects on the safety and well-being of transgender students. Despite claims by the Department of Education that Title IX does not protect gender identity, multiple federal and district courts throughout the U.S. have made it clear that discriminating against a person based on their gender identity is, at its core, sex discrimination. Legal experts have been clear, regardless of the Department of Education’s unwillingness to protect students, transgender students still have rights and legal recourse under Title IX.
More information about the rights of LGBTQ youth can be found at www.glsen.org/knowyourrights. LGBTQ youth who experience harassment and discrimination may contact GLSEN (www.glsen.org | 212-727-0135) to be connected with local and/or legal support.
GLSEN creates safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools across the United States, and our network of 39 community-led chapters in 26 states brings GLSEN’s expertise to local communities. GLSEN's progress and impact have won support for inclusive schools at all levels of education in the United States and sparked an international movement to ensure equality for LGBTQ students and respect for all in schools. For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research, and educator training programs, please visit www.glsen.org.