Treatment of Transgender Students Stands as Important Component of Comprehensive Efforts to Promote Civil Rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) issued the following statement in response to litigation filed by eleven states challenging the Obama administration’s issuance of guidance regarding schools’ treatment of transgender students:
“The states that have mounted this litigation are standing on the wrong side of history,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The arguments proffered by those who stand opposed to the rights of transgender students harken back to a dark era in which ‘separate but equal’ policies were standard operating procedure for school districts. Today, all students across our nation’s public schools are entitled to dignity and fair treatment, regardless of their gender identity or other protected status.”
The guidance, issued two weeks ago, requires schools to treat transgender students no differently than it treats other students of the same gender identity with regard to school functions and facilities—including the use of restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities —or risk losing their federal education funds under Title IX. While the relevant legal issues will be resolved in court, the Lawyers’ Committee recognizes the need for greater efforts to protect the rights of transgender students and applauds the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice for issuing needed guidance to promote the uniform and equal treatment of students, regardless of gender identity.
Three-quarters of transgender students report feeling unsafe at school, while 59 percent have been denied access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The intersection of race and transgender identity can be particularly difficult for students to navigate: almost half of African-American transgender individuals have attempted suicide, compared with 41 percent of all transgender individuals and 1.6 percent of the general population.