education

Five advocacy organizations join together to assist transgender students nationally

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the National Education Association, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined forces to produce Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools for distribution to various school administrations.

The publication's aim is to provide an informative guide to help school officials as well as parents assist and encourage transgender students.

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Federal Judge nixes Title IX legal theory

Gavin Grimm sat quietly in the audience last November as dozens of parents at a school board meeting in Gloucester County, Va., demanded that he be barred from using the boys’ restrooms at school. They discussed the transgender boy’s genitals, expressed concern that he might expose himself and cautioned that being in a men’s room would make the teenager vulnerable to rape. One person called him a “freak.”

When Gavin, 16, got his turn at the podium, he was remarkably composed. “I didn’t ask to be this way,” Gavin said. “All I want to do is be a normal child and use the restroom in peace.”

Today, Judge Robert Doumar of Federal District Court in Virginia was scheduled to consider whether Gloucester school board's banning of Gavin from the men's restroom consitutes unlawful discrimination.

Judge. Doumar said in federal court in Norfolk on Monday that it was "highly unlikely" that he will grant a preliminary injunction that would require Gloucester County Public Schools to allow a 16-year-old transgender student to use the boys' restroom this fall.

The injunction is a part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Gavin Grimm by the American Civil Liberties Union, which seeks a court order requiring the school board to let Grimm use the boys' restroom, even though he was born female.

Doumar said he will issue a written opinion on the injunction and after that, set a trial date on the lawsuit.

Doumar did dismiss the Title IX discrimination claims in the lawsuit, saying federal law allows schools to have separate restrooms based on sex.

The DOJ had filed a statement of interest on behalf of Gavin earlier this month.

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Guidelines issued to New York schools

Last month I wrote a couple of diaries about New York's struggles with its own Dignity for All Students Act:

Indignity in New York, one of my least successful diaries ever, concerned an NYCLU on the status of transgender students in the state

Outraged focused on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Angry Letter to Acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin demanding action to ameliorate the situation.

Funny thing about that letter: As well-publicized as it was, Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins says that Berlin never received it.

Be that as it may, this past Tuesday the New York Board of Regents issued guidelines to schools about how to treat transgender students. The Regents called for schools to respect the self-identity of youngster whenever the subject of gender arises.

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Legal News out of Oklahoma

Back in April I wrote about the denial of tenure for Dr. Rachel Tudor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University because Dr. Tudor's "transgender lifestyle" offended the religious beliefs of the school's vice president for academic affairs Douglas McMillan.

The Department of Justice sued both Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the Regional University System of Oklahoma for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit alleged that the University terminated the employment of Dr. Rachel Tudor, an assistant professor, based on her gender, gender identity and gender expression, as well as in retaliation for making complaints of discrimination.

Dr. Tudor intervened in that law suit by bringing her own complaint in early May, additionally claiming that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment.

Southeastern and the RUSO asked the court to dismiss Dr. Tudor's suit, arguing that transgender people are not entitled to protection from sex discrimination because we are not a protected class under the law.

Last Friday Judge Robin Cauthron of the US District Court in the Western District of Oklahoma denied the motion to dismiss.

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Outraged

Andrew Cuomo is outraged! Outraged, I say! He's so outraged, he wrote an Angry Letter on Friday.

In one of my least successful diary efforts, Indignity in New York from this past week I recounted how the NYCLU had released a report charging that the state of New York was a failure at protecting transgender and gender non-conformiing students as charged under the Dignity for All Students Act of 2010.

This lack of action appears to have resulted in harassment and violence being perpetrated against transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

--Cuomo

According to the report, 19% of the 24,478 incidents of harassment reported in New York schools during the 2012-13 school year involved gender stereotypes.

Cuomo called the report “truly disturbing” and demanded that Acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin “take any and all necessary action” to address its findings.

Now that's scathing!

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Indignity in New York

In 2010 New York passed the Dignity for All Students Act.

The Dignity Act prohibits acts of harassment and bullying, including cyberbullying, and/or discrimination, by employees or students on school property or at a school function, including but not limited to such conduct those based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (defined to include gender identity or expression), or sex.

The Act was to go into affect in July 1, 2013.

In a new report Dignity for All? Discrimination Against Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students in New York State the NYCLU is charging that he state has failed to protect students from discrimination and bullying on the basis of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. You can download the report here.

Children’s rights remain largely misunderstood by educators and administrators.

--NYCLU

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Doing the Right Thing

Last Sunday I wrote about a meeting scheduled at which the Barnard trustees would be deciding the fate of transgender admissions at the college.

Last week turned out to be a busy week in the transgender world. Vanity Fair put Caitlyn on its cover. OSHA put whatever power it might have directly behind trans people. The Air Force made it easier for transgender people to serve. And the Barnard trustees had that meeting.

Those trustees decided that transgender women will be admitted beginning in the fall. In so doing, Barnard became the last of the famous "Seven Sisters" to do so. If you are not familiar with the Seven Sisters, they were Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley. They were given that sobriquet in 1927 to signify their parallel with the Ivy League men's colleges.

But times change and Poughkeepsie, NY's Vassar went coed in 1969. And Radcliffe, located in Cambridge, MA, began merging with Harvard in 1977 (and completed it in 1999).

In the past year Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Smith and now Barnard have opened their doors to transgender women, following the lead of California's Mills College.

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That bathroom thing? Oh, yeah. It's crap.

We've seen it time and again. Someone somewhere suggests that a school district actually develop a policy to protect transgender students from bullying and sexual or physical harassment and the first thing you know the conservative media is all over "the bathroom thing."

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington all have statewide nondiscrimination laws designed to protect students on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as does the District of Columbia. Additionally, Wisconsin and New York protect students on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education today issued official guidance which makes clear that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Specifically, the guidance states that "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.

--GLSEN, April 29, 2015

Rightwing sources: Government overreach. Title IX was never intended to protect "those kind of people."

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Next Up? Barnard

 photo Barnard_zps8rzlejez.jpgBarnard College's trustees are expected to vote this coming week on the issue of transgender admissions.

Mills, Mount Holyoke, Scripps, Simmons, Bryn Mawr, and Smith have all opened their doors to transgender women in the past year.

I think certain issues just hit the zeitgeist at a certain point in time.

History is moving very quickly on this issue.

--Debora Spar, Barnard president

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Boulder mom steps up for her kids

Kai Mackenzie has two children. Both were assigned male at birth...but that didn't take.

As a parent, Kai McKenzie admits it took years to understand what it meant to raise a transgender child. Kai’s oldest, Elsa, was assigned male at birth but began rejecting that identity at just two years old.

When I told her she was a boy she just screamed, ’No!’” Kai said. “I still didn’t get it.

--Kai

From age two until age 8, Kai's oldest child would draw pictures of herself as a girl...and chose to dress as a girl when she could.

Kai says Elsa eventually refused to go to the bathroom and, at 8 years old, began showing signs of physical sickness when gender conversations came up.

She started increasingly just breaking down any time anyone called her a boy. I mean, just collapsing and sobbing. She came to me and said, ‘If I’m a boy, why is there no one like me? There must be something wrong with me. I wish I didn’t exist.’ And those words. Those words are a wake-up call to any parent.

--Kai

So last year the Mackenzie family embraced Elsa as a girl.

But there was also Sky.

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