Five national organizations dedicated to LGBT life, liberty, and education today introduced Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schoolsto various school administrations. The publication's aim is to provide an informative guide to help school officials as well as parents assist and encourage transgender students.
The guide's lead authors are Asaf Orr, the Transgender Youth Project staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Joel Baum, Gender Spectrum's senior director for professional development and family aervices. The guide lists the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Campaign as coauthors.
Ellen Kahn, the director of the HRC Foundation's Children, Youth, and Families Program, wrote about the guide in an op-ed in The Advocate.
"Educators should have the tools they need to guide them through the process of supporting transgender students, and this first-of-its-kind blueprint covers topics ranging from basic concepts of gender and the importance of affirming gender identity, to best practices for restroom access and working with unsupportive parents," Kahn wrote. Her program includes the national Welcoming Schools effort, which works with educators to create LGBT-inclusive and supportive elementary schools.
The guide comes two months after the New York City branch of the ACLU condemned education officials in the city for tolerating abuse, discrimination, and illegal mistreatment toward transgender and gender-nonconforming students in public schools across the state. Last month, the city responded to the criticism with its own guidance for educators on how to accomodate and protect trans students.
"Having worked with many transgender students and their families, I know that school administrators want to do what they can to meet the needs of their transgender students and comply with Title IX," said NCLR's Asaf Orr. "Unfortunately, many are unsure about how to achieve that goal. This guide changes that by giving all the stakeholders in a school the tools to support a transgender student in their school. Following this guide will not only assist schools in complying with Title IX, but also create a safe and more supportive environment for all students in the district." Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds.
The difficulty, said Orr and Baum, comes from the fact that school administrators across the country lack knowledge regarding the situation of trans students.
"NEA is proud to be a co-author of Schools in Transition, a first-of-its kind guide to supporting transgender students in K-12 schools," added NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia. "This publication is an extremely valuable resource for the three million NEA members who work tirelessly to assure that their schools and classrooms are safe and welcoming for all students. And it will be a lifesaver for the increasing number of transgender students who are living as their authentic selves. Only when every school provides an inclusive, respectful environment can every student achieve their full potential."
"At the ACLU, I talk with trans and gender-nonconforming students and their parents from all over the country all the time," said ACLU strategist Chris Hampton. "This guide answers many questions I hear almost daily, and provides practical step-by-step advice for everything from how schools should approach names and pronouns, to privacy concerns, to ways transgender students can use special education laws to get accommodations at school."
The authors of Schools in Transition say it contains legal information, research-supported guidance, and real-life narratives from students and educators, spread over six chapters. It addresses basic concepts of gender, advice on approaching unsupportive parents, as well as information regarding the dangers of marginalization in school.
"We could not be more proud of this partnership with other leaders dedicated to creating safe, supportive schools for transgender students," said Kahn. "This groundbreaking publication will provide in-depth and practical guidance for school administrators, counselors, teachers, and parents -- all of whom are key to ensuring that transgender children can learn and thrive at school."
Baum added, "Schools in Transition is a unique and crucial resource for educators, caregivers and students. A young person's assertion of their authentic gender and the attendant questions it raises can feel overwhelming for all involved. This invaluable tool effectively breaks down the process, helping convert uncertainty to action. It provides a roadmap in which everyone can locate themselves on the journey to a successful experience for all."
The authors of the pioneering publication will host a Google Hangout August 12. Click here to participate.
Read and learn more about Schools in Transition here.