In a nation still reeling from the killing of a young girl at a Kansas high school, parents, teachers and teachers’ unions are fighting for better guidelines on how to educate students about the human rights and dignity of transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In addition to clarifying what gender identity is and what the correct pronouns are, the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators and the American Federation of Teachers are also pushing for a national standard that would require schools to provide access to a variety of gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, and for schools to ensure that transgender and transgender-identified students are supported in the classroom.
The federal government has yet to develop a national gender-nonconforming bathroom standard, though some states have passed bills that have passed both houses of Congress.
Some transgender advocates argue that schools need to be able to accommodate the needs of students who identify as both genders.
“The school should be the place where kids are learning,” said Mary Kay Henry, a former head of the National Center for Transgender Equality and now a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown.
“It should be where they’re getting to know people.”
According to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, transgender students in America are three times more likely to experience violence than the general population.
The report said there are also several cases of bullying, and that transgender people are six times more often than other students to be sexually assaulted.
“It’s a very, very serious problem, and it’s not going away anytime soon,” said Jennifer Stahl, the ACLU’s deputy legal director.
“We’re going to see more and more schools doing more to accommodate transgender students, and they’re going have to start asking themselves whether they can do it in a safe and responsible way.”
The report noted that transgender students have been targeted for violence at school, with one recent report finding that transgender women were almost four times more than white, non-Hispanic women who identified as lesbian or gay.
The ACLU report notes that although there have been some notable changes in recent years, the transgender community is still far from being accepted by the majority of the public.
It also noted that the majority-female transgender population is only 7.3 percent of the U.S. population, and in some states, transgender people don’t have the legal right to be born in the gender they were assigned at birth.
“Our goal is not to have a single standard,” said Stahl.
“Our goal and the goal of the organization is to have standards that are reflective of what’s safe and what’s not.”