WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Education Association – the nation’s largest teachers union – recently released guidelines for school administrators to deal with transgender student issues.
The report, “Schools in Transition,” is a collaborative project with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Campaign aimed at explaining transgender students’ rights under federal Title IX laws, SFGate.com reports.
The goal is to help school administrators who aren’t sure how to handle transgender students, such as requests by biological boys who “identify” as girls to use the girls restroom and locker room facilities.
“This guide changes that by giving all the stakeholders in a school the tools to support a transgender student in their school,” the report’s lead author, Asaf Orr, told the news site. “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, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal assistance.”
It’s the same section of federal law that advocates against educator sexual misconduct have pointed to as a means of forcing schools to correct an epidemic of teachers and other school employees who sexually abuse students.
Across the country, teachers are arrested virtually every day for sexual relationships with students – an ordeal that leaves victims with deep emotional scars that can take decades to heal. Unfortunately, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that oversees Title IX enforcement has largely ignored pleas from victims to fight for their rights.
The National Education Association has never widely publicized a guide for school administrators to deal with student victims of educator sexual misconduct.
But transgender students, which represent a very small fraction of the American student body, are in a special situation that apparently deserves more attention. “The guidelines come at a time when American culture is becoming increasingly open-minded about the definition of gender identity, largely due to the emphatic trans movement and the presence of transgender people in pop culture,” according to the news site.
Here’s a sampling of the NEA’s transgender suggestions for school officials:
“If the school or district has a specific dress code for boys and girls, a transgender student must be allowed to wear the clothing that corresponds to their gender identity, regardless of their assigned sex at birth, the gender designated on their birth certificate or other legal documents.”
“Providing transgender students with access to the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity is yet another way that schools adjust to meet students’ individual needs. … Generally, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of a student who assets a transgender identity, and schools should accept the student’s identity without imposing additional requirements.”
The guidelines also suggest the “safety” of transgender students trumps the feelings of the rest of their classmates and school officials.
“ … (A) transgender student should never be forced or pressured into using alternative facilities just to make students or school personnel more comfortable,” according to the report, which goes on to stress that the comfortableness of transgender students is critical to their well being.
“Even with a strong and supportive school culture, some transgender students may feel uncomfortable using restrooms or locker rooms and may seek an alternative that affirms their identity while also ensuring they are safe and comfortable. The best option would most likely be a single-stall facility, preferably one that is close to the student’s classes.
“It is important to discuss all possible options so that the student can make an informed choice. However, transgender students should never be forced to use a separate single-stall facility.”
In essence, it’s the transgender students themselves who should get to make the decisions about which restroom and what type of facilities they prefer, and school officials, students, parents and teachers should simply comply, the report argues.
The guidelines also suggest that school administrators should support students who claim to be transgender, whether or not the student’s parents are on board. The guidelines lay out ways officials can keep parents in the dark about a student’s chosen gender identity, such as discussing with the student how administrators should refer to them when speaking to the student’s family.
A parent’s negative reaction to a student’s decision to change their gender identity is born out of ignorance, the guidelines argue, and school officials should strive to educate parents about gender issues.
“A parent’s negative reaction to a child’s gender often comes from a place of love and protection – and is not intended to harm the child – rejection can be a misguided attempt at protection,” the guide reads.
The 68-page report also devotes sections to federal laws that protect transgender students, and how school administrators can comply with them.
While the goal of the guide is to help stop bullying of transgender students so they feel welcomed and valued in school is a laudable one, many parents of sexually normal students will undoubtedly object to several of the guide’s suggestions for schools.
Parents of transgender students would also likely take offense to the suggestion that school officials hide their child’s transition if requested to do so.
The bullying of transgender students – a recent study found 82 percent don’t feel safe at school – is a serious issue that deserves attention.
So is the actual physical sexual abuse of students by their teachers, a problem that’s plagued public schools for decades and has seemingly gotten worse in recent years.
Unfortunately, the NEA has largely ignored that much more serious problem because it’s perpetuated by its members and union officials who work to cut secret deals for the accused.