The New York City Department of Education today issued new guidelines regarding transgender and gender nonconforming students. This updated policy contains some of the strongest, clearest guidance in the country on how schools must support and protect the rights of students in compliance with local, state, and federal antidiscrimination laws.
The guidance, backed by city and state law, is clear on the rights of all students to access school facilities and participate in school activities consistent with their gender identities. Such facilities include restrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms, and relevant school activities include overnight field trips, physical education, and sports. The new guidelines also include important instruction on maintaining student privacy and ways to support transitioning students.
However, the new guidelines include needlessly restrictive criteria for updating a student’s gender on permanent records, requiring an amended birth certificate or passport for no legal reason. In particular, this poses an obstacle for immigrant students.
The following statement is attributable to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union:
“These new guidelines are a leap forward for transgender students’ right to be themselves in New York City schools. This is all the more important in the wake of the Trump regime’s cruel moves last week to rescind similar guidelines at the federal level. However, the city still needs to make it easier for students to update their school records to reflect their gender identity. That is an oversight in an otherwise strong move to respect and protect students in New York City.
“We hope other localities across the state will follow the lead of the New York City Department of Education to support our students. While the State Education Department guidance also provides important protections for transgender New Yorkers, the state legislature can do more. It should pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would explicitly add gender identity and expression to the state’s antidiscrimination laws, and it should fix the loophole in the state Human Rights Law that makes it harder for students to challenge illegal discrimination.”