Transgender Students Facing Erasure from Schools Under Trump

Written By sj Miller

Dear Friends,

BREAKING: On February 10, just two days after Jeff Sessions was sworn in as Attorney General, the Department of Justice took a first step toward dropping their defense of the transgender student guidance in court. While the guidance is still in place, this is a major signal that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is likely planning to stop defending the guidance entirely and may try to reverse the guidance. It is more important than ever to take action now to stop this from happening.

– National Center for Transgender Equality

A federal judge in Texas has ordered the Department of Education to temporarily stop investigating complaints related to trans students’ restroom and locker room access. Within two days of starting his job, Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the support of the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, have started to backtrack from defending the guidance in court, indicating that the federal government may stop defending against the lawsuit entirely. Technically speaking, the other parts of the guidance, not dealing with restrooms or locker rooms, are still in effect and the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights can still investigate complaints relating to those other types of discrimination. Right now, you can still complain directly to them (see link 1, below).

During the Presidential transition, Vice President Pence and others associated with the Trump administration have said that they plan on reversing that guidance. As of now, that has not happened—but as noted above, Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos are indicating they might no longer defend that guidance in court. The National Center for Transgender Equality is fighting to make sure that the new administration doesn’t take away this guidance. Even if the new administration does roll back the guidance, that can’t change the Title IX law itself—and it doesn’t change those federal court opinions that say the law protects trans students.

There’s great uncertainty right now about what trans students’ rights are at school. The most important thing to remember is that no matter what happens in the new administration or with the Supreme Court, many schools will still be willing to support trans students. In many places, there are state laws or other protections in place to rely on, even if the federal protections are eroded.  These links will help you access key documents below:

  1. Dear DOJ- Letters in Support of Transgender Youth– The letter is pre-addressed/linked, you just fill in your information; http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51171/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=20850
  2. Transgender National Center for EqualityA comprehensive website that provides an overview of current concerns under the Trump administration, tips for strategizing, an overview of current protections, links to key federal and state documents, guidelines for Title IX Coordinators, key court cases, and a list of all organizations and key figures who stand with transgender students; http://www.transequality.org/school-action-center
  3. Department of Education’s Guidance Fact Sheet from the US Department of Education Policy Letter on Behalf of Transgender StudentsA document providing an overview of current facts and rights, and exemptions from the law; http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/ED-DCL-Fact-Sheet.pdf
  4. A Dear Colleague LetterA letter to give out to your peers which explains changes and rights for Transgender Students under Title IX which were implemented during Obama’s presidency; http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/sac/01%20colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf
  5. Know Your Rights | SchoolsA document outlining rights of transgender students in schools, how to file a complaint, and who to go to for support; http://www.transequality.org/know-your-rights/schools
  6. Examples of Supportive Policies from the Department of Education These examples show different approaches schools across the country have taken across a range of issues; https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/emergingpractices.pdf
  7. Federal Guidance on Bullying and Harassment Guidance on bullying, including gender-based and anti-transgender bullying; http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/sac/06 colleague-201010.pdf
  8. Model District Policy -These detailed policies are from NCTE and GLSEN and includes policies that school districts can adopt to support trans students; http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/GLSEN Trans Model Policy 2016.pdf
  9. Schools in Transition– This is a practical 6-chapter guide to help school officials address issues affecting trans students. It covers gender basics, why this work matters, key considerations (e.g., planning, timing, age and grade level, privacy and disclosure, and public and private transitions); key elements and practical tips (e.g. student records and information systems, names and pronouns, dress code, sex-separated facilities, activities and programs, discrimination, harassment and bullying) complex issues, legal landscape, creating an affirming school for all, and has a rich resource guide filled with appendices and practical applications of the chapters; https://www.genderspectrum.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Schools-in-Transition-2015.pdf and,
  10. FAQ on Bathrooms- A document that addresses common questions school officials may have about restroom access; https://www.genderspectrum.org/BathroomFAQ/

Please consider passing this along to colleagues, list serves, friends and family, and if you are teaching, ask your peers and students to write letters in support of transgender youth.

On behalf of the youth you are about to help, we all thank you. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Please, please, pass on.

In solidarity,

sj Miller, Ph.D.