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Title IX Update:  Department of Education Broadens Rights of Transgender Students in Public Schools in 2014

The U.S. Department of Education made significant steps in 2014 to protect the rights of transgender students.  In April, the U.S. Department of Education released “Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence.”  This document directs that Title IX (the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education) protects students from sexual violence at public schools. In explaining which students the federal law protects, the Department wrote: “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.”

In October, the Department of Education resolved a civil rights complaint with California’s Downey Unified School District.  Click here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-educations-office-civil-rights-announces-resolution-civil-rights-I  A transgender student had been harassed and discriminated against for gender nonconformance at school. The settlement provided that the school district would hire an expert in child and adolescent gender identity; remove all discipline from the student’s record (the student had been punished for wearing makeup); and provide mandatory training for school administrators in handling issues related to gender nonconformance and gender-based harassment.

In December, the Department of Education expanded its guidance regarding Title IX issues and transgender students when it released: Questions & Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Classes and Extracurricular Activities.”  The bulletin explains how coeducational public schools should administer single-sex classes or extracurricular activities.  Although a coeducational learning environment is preferable, the guidance identifies certain areas where a single-sex class or activity may be justified.

If a single-sex class or activity is necessary, the school must “treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.” This means that if a transgender girl attends a public school with single-sex gym classes she must be allowed to participate in the class with her female peers.

Although there is more work to do to protect the rights of transgender Americans, the U.S. Department of Education made positive steps in the past year to correct injustices related to gender nonconformance and gender identity.

If you have questions concerning education discrimination, contact Ed Feinstein for a confidential consultation.

 

 

 

 

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