Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, along with Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan late last month, urging the Education Department to further clarify an April statement from the department's Office for Civil Rights regarding Title IX's impact on transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
"We urge the Department of Education to make further clarification by developing guidance consistent with the law that clearly outlines now the appropriate treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming students under Title IX," the letter reads. "Such guidance would inform schools of the measures needed to be in compliance with current law and existing obligations to transgender and gender non-conforming students. To be in compliance, and avoid costly, unnecessary litigation, schools need clear guidance on the practical application of non-discrimination laws to ensure that transgender students do not face a hostile environment, covering such issues as access to facilities, protecting student privacy, and the application of dress standards, among other topics."
The letter goes on to cite a 2011 study of transgender students in grades six through 12, showcasing startlingly high rates of verbal, physical, and sexual harassment reported by transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
The three members of Congress are the lead sponsors of the current iteration of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would establish "a comprehensive, explicit prohibition, modeled on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, against discrimination in all public elementary and secondary schools across the country based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
“All students, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve an educational experience that is free from bullying and harassment," Rep. Polis tells The Advocate. "I applaud the Department of Education for its commitment to addressing the challenges that LGBT students face in our nation’s public schools. I encourage Secretary Duncan to take the next step by issuing comprehensive guidance on the responsibilities that schools have under Title IX to provide all students with a safe and equal learning environment that is free from discrimination.”
“Without question, Congress needs to pass explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT students," says Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union. "This letter to Secretary Duncan makes clear that there are important steps that the administration can take right now while we continue to push for passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act. The Department of Education should issue comprehensive guidance clarifying Title IX’s protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”
Read the full letter sent to Sec. Duncan below.