The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidelines this week clarifying for the first time that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination against transgender students.
“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 guidelines state. The guidance, included in a larger document on school’s responsibilities to protect students from sexual violence, also declares that schools must provide equal access to all programs and facilities for transgender students, consistent with the student’s gender identity.
“This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Policy Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement. According to research by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 80 percent of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of their identity.
“It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so,” Tobin added.
The guidance builds on previous federal settlements and court cases, including a case in a California school district where a transgender boy was excluded from school restrooms and field trip accommodations.
Media Resources: US Department of Education; National Center for Transgender Equality 4/29/14; ACLU 4/29/14; Feminist Majority Foundation