MILESTONE: US Dept. of Education. Announces Title IX Protects Transgender Students

NCTE welcomes guidance issued today by the U.S. Department of Education which makes clear that the federal Title IX law prohibits discrimination against transgender students. The guidance, from the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), states: “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.”

 

“This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are,” said NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin. “It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so.”

 

Recent research indicates that 80% of transgender students feel unsafe at school because of who they are [GLSEN 2012]. While the guidance does not address specific forms of discrimination against transgender students, recent actions by the Departments of Justice and Education make clear that schools must provide equal access to all school facilities and programs consistent with a student’s gender identity. A 2013 federal settlement with the Arcadia, California school district, on behalf of a transgender boy excluded from school restrooms and field trip accommodations, requires school officials to treat the student as male for all purposes. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued guidance stating the nondiscrimination based on gender identity requires domestic violence shelters and other grantees under the Violence Against Women ACT (VAWA) to provide equal access consistent with a person’s gender identity.

 

This historic statement on gender identity is embedded in a larger guidance document on the responsibilities of schools to prevent and respond to sexual violence against any student—part of a package of guidance and resources announced by the Obama Administration today to address this widespread problem. Also being launched is a new website, NotAlone.gov, collecting resources for students and schools and reporting settlements with schools related to sexual violence on campus. NCTE applauds the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the federal agencies involved in this effort.

 

“Sexual violence in schools is shockingly common in the U.S. and needs to stop,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “That the Federal Government is addressing sexual violence is so important. And it is also important, and honestly a relief, that the Department of Education is clarifying Title IX in a way that will make schools safer for transgender students.”

 

While the Department of Education took the opportunity of issuing the sexual violence guidance to also clarify that transgender students are protected under Title IX, this protection is not limited to the context of physical or sexual violence and extends to all forms of discrimination in education. NCTE has long pressed for this guidance along with other LGBT advocates, and now urges the Department of Education to issue further detailed guidance on the rights of transgender students.

 

To ensure compliance with Title IX, NCTE urges schools to use our Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students, developed by NCTE and our partners at GLSEN, to update their own policies. Students or anyone aware of discrimination based on gender identity can file a complaint with the Department of Education at https://ocrcas.ed.gov/.

 

To learn more or to speak with Mara Keisling or Harper Jean Tobin, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / vvillano@transequality.org / 202-631-9640.

 


 

 

Pentagon Human Goals Charter “Disappointing” for Absence of Trans People

 

April 28, 2014

 

The Pentagon today released the Human Goals Charter, a document that outlines the guiding principles for the treatment of Department of Defense uniform and civilian workforce that, for the first time, affirms gay and lesbian military service members.

 

In response to the absence of the inclusion of transgender people in the document, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling issued the following statement:

 

 

“While this is a positive step, it’s very disappointing that the Department of Defense (DOD) missed this opportunity to make clear its commitment to equal opportunity for transgender civilian workers. Transgender civilian workers at the Department of Defense are protected under sex discrimination laws because EEOC precedent makes clear that sex discrimination law protect transgender workers in all federal civilian contexts including the Department of Defense. We hope the Department will make this explicit in its civilian EEO policy, and will soon review the outdated rules, and remove the prejudice from those rules, that prevent transgender service members from serving openly and safely.

Another obvious deficiency in federal employment policy that can and should be addressed immediately is the President should sign the Executive Order that will explicitly disallow job discrimination by federal contractors including military contractors.”

 

To speak with Mara Keisling, please contact Vincent Paolo Villano / vvillano@transequality.org / 202-631-9640.

 


 

LGBT Advocates Commend New VAWA Non-Discrimination Guidance, Urge Other Federal Agencies to Follow Lead

 

April 24, 2014

 

As advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, we applaud the Department of Justice for issuing strong implementing guidelines for the historic non-discrimination provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), ensuring that LGBT survivors of violence receive equal services and treatment free from unlawful discrimination. The recently released Frequently Asked Questions about the new provisions are precedent-setting and will be a guide for other federal agencies on how to implement LGBT non-discrimination provisions. These provisions mark the first ever explicit protections from discrimination for LGBT people under federal law.

 

This guidance is a significant step forward because it makes clear that federal tax dollars under VAWA can’t be used to discriminate against LGBT people. If a grantee receives any funding under VAWA, all activities of that entity are covered by the non-discrimination mandate (including employment), as well as activities that aren’t related to or funded by the Department of Justice. This is hugely important because VAWA funding is disbursed to many agencies and programs around the country, including many rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, legal services, housing programs, education and prevention campaigns, courts, prosecutors, police and sheriff’s departments, as well as state agencies that administer VAWA funds.

 

As part of this guidance, the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice (OVW) announced a framework for analyzing the limited conditions for services that are segregated or specific to gender and prohibited justifications based on overbroad assumptions or past practice. In the limited case where gender-segregated services are proven to be essential, meaningful comparable services must be provided. The policy is also historic because it is the first time a federal agency has clearly stated that non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity means that all transgender people are to be housed and provided with other services according to their self-identified gender. The guidance makes clear that transgender people can’t be turned away or treated differently just because another client complains about being around a transgender person, and that staff cannot ask invasive personal questions to get a transgender person to “prove” their gender.

 

We urge the Department of Justice to formalize this historic guidance in binding regulations, as is standard practice with other major civil rights laws. We look forward to other federal agencies following the lead of the Department of Justice and applying similar interpretations of other laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.