New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has released guidelines, the Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Guidance Document, for schools to create safe environments for transgender and gender nonconforming students, officials stated.
“All students need a safe and supportive school setting to progress academically and developmentally,” Elia stated.
According to the New York State Education Department, the document has been transmitted to every school district in the state, and is intended to help districts foster an educational environment safe and free from discrimination for transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) students. The guidelines also include information to help districts comply with local, state, and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment, discrimination, and student privacy.
The New York Civil Liberties Union released a report in June, that found incidents of harassment involving gender stereotypes had been the most commonly reported incidents of harassment in public schools.
According to NYCLU officials, during the 2012-13 school year, New York schools reported 24,478 incidents of harassment under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), 19 percent of which had been related to gender stereotypes.
As a result, officials said the document would provide guidelines for schools regarding the following issues:
- Respecting the preferred names and gender pronouns of students;
- Respecting students’ right to privacy and confidentiality in regards to maintenance of student records;
- Providing all students with access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, and providing private bathrooms and changing spaces to all students who desire additional privacy, and providing transgender students the same opportunities to participate in gender-segregated activities as other students;
- Encouraging the regular training of all adults working in schools to ensure they understand the range of gender identities and expressions, knowing what they must do to create a supportive environment for all students; and
- Providing resources for school faculty to use to educate themselves, and their students.
NYSED officials said the organization has been working to implement DASA since 2010, when the act was first signed into law, and has worked closely with advocacy groups such as NYCLU, the Empire Justice Center, and Empire State Pride Agenda to prepare the guidelines.
“We applaud the state education department for providing guidance, so every school in the state knows how to follow the law, and protect the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming youth,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman stated.
According to NYSED, the document should be used by school boards and administrators to develop procedures and district policies related to schools’ transgender and gender nonconforming students.