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How Schools Around The Country Are Treating Transgender Student Rights

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In addition to the letter today to the nation's school districts urging them to protect the rights of transgender students, the Education Department provided a long report on states and districts it says are already doing so.

That list includes the nation's three largest school districts: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It also names plenty of smaller places, like Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District in Alaska, and Shorewood School District in Wisconsin. And while inclusion on the list doesn't mean those states and districts are doing everything the federal government now says they should, it does provide a snapshot of policies the department thinks are worth highlighting:

  • The LA Unified School District's policy declares that participation in sports "shall be facilitated" in a manner consistent with the student's gender identity.
  • Chicago says schools should convene an administrative support team to address each transgender student's individual needs and supports, a team that would include the principal, students and/or their parents or guardians.
  • The Federal Way School District in Washington State reminds school leaders: "Keep in mind that the meaning of gender conformity can vary from culture to culture, so these may not translate exactly to Western ideas of what it means to be transgender. Some of these identities include Hijra (South Asia), Fa'afafine (Samoa), Kathoey (Thailand), Travesti (South America), and Two-Spirit (Native American/First Nations)."

The other places with policies singled out in the report are: California; Colorado's Boulder Valley; the Washington, D.C.; Atherton High School, in Jefferson County, Ky.; Maryland; Massachusetts; Minneapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Washoe County School District in Nevada; New York State; Oregon; Rhode Island; Washington State.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, an advocacy group, also tracks which states have anti-bullying and anti-discrimination laws that specifically protect transgender students.

NPR Ed decided to take a look at the other side of the ledger as well — places that have seen legal challenges over this issue or that may have policies in conflict with the new guidance.

We talked to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been defending transgender students all over the country, as well as GLSEN, for examples of ongoing and recent cases. Again, this is not a comprehensive list.

North Carolina would be at the top of that list, with its highly controversial law that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. Similar "bathroom laws" are pending in Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

In Marion County, Fla., last month, the school board passed a "bathroom bill" resolution. On May 12, the ACLU filed a discrimination complaint alleging that a transgender student was suspended for using the male restroom.

Also on May 12, the Transgender Law Center filed a similar complaint against the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin.

Gloucester County, Va., recently passed a similar resolution and is involved in ongoing litigation.

In 2013, in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 in Illinois, a transgender girl filed a Title IX complaint for access to the girls' locker room. While settling the complaint and accommodating the student, the district decided against adopting a districtwide policy on transgender students' access to locker rooms or bathrooms. The district was sued this month by parents and students seeking to overturn the agreement and deny transgender student access to these facilities.

NPR Ed wants to know: What are your school district's policies on accommodating transgender students?

This story was reported by Anya Kamenetz for NPR Ed and by Gabrielle Emanuel for All Things Considered.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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