Lambda Legal Applauds New Federal Guidance on Transgender Students’ Access to Bathrooms

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May 13, 2016

The Obama Administration today issued new guidance directing public school districts across the country to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

The guidance, contained in a letter signed by U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice officials, was accompanied by a 25-page document detailing “emerging practices” being used by school districts to accommodate transgender students.

This new guidance is a powerful and affirming statement recognizing the imperative that schools be safe, respectful and nurturing environments for all students. It recognizes that singling out transgender students for separate and unequal treatment is demeaning and harmful, and that compelling them to use bathrooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity subjects them to potential abuse and harassment.

Importantly, the new guidance is explicit that transgender students do not need to produce a medical diagnosis or birth certificate, but rather a parent’s or guardian’s assertion that a student’s gender identity differs from previous records or representations will suffice. And, the guidance reaffirms what has been a long-accepted staple in the struggle for equal rights – the discomfort of some can never be used to justify the discriminatory treatment of others.

All students deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in school, free of harassment, discriminatory treatment and the threat of violence. This guidance, along with the accompanying documentation of best practices and the testimony of school leaders across the country that have successfully accommodated transgender students without incident, should put to rest the uninformed fear-mongering that has given rise to a spate of ill-conceived and discriminatory laws and policies at the state and local level.

And make no mistake: schools and legislators that persist in denying equal educational opportunity for transgender students risk not only the health and well-being of those students, but expose themselves to litigation and the possible loss of millions of dollars in federal aid. Perpetuating discrimination is bad for business, bad for students, bad for all.

Read the press release.