The U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services released a YouTube video on Tuesday with a message supporting transgender students as they head back to school.
Department of Education Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg said that while this may be an exciting time for most students, transgender students may have concerns about acceptance at school or even feeling safe in the classroom.
"We also want you to know that the Department of Education and the entire government stand behind you," Goldberg said.
"Your rights at school matter. You matter."
Many teachers and staff are ready to provide those safe and welcoming spaces in their classrooms, said Kristen Clarke, the D.O.J. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. Clarke said the government appreciates those teachers for doing so, but those spaces don't yet exist for all transgender students.
"In some places, people in positions of authority are putting up obstacles that would keep you from playing on the sports field, accessing the bathroom, and receiving the supportive and lifesaving care you may need," Clarke said. "We're here to say that's wrong and it's against the law."
Dr. Rachel Levine, the H.H.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, also appeared in the video. She is the first out trans person confirmed by the U.S. Senate to any position and the highest-ranking one ever in the federal government.
Levine said the Department of Health and Human Services knows that learning environments that are free from bullying are vital to student learning and health, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"It is critical to support trans youth, their parents, and families to help them achieve the good health and well-being, that everyone deserves," Levine said.
The speakers provided several avenues that students can use to file complaints at the D.O.E. and the D.O.J. if they face discrimination at school.
"We stand behind you and are ready to act to defend your rights," said Clarke.