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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 2 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 18
Federal guidelines issued to protect Transgender students - Title IX further outlines guidelines to protect all LGBT students
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Federal guidelines issued to protect Transgender students - Title IX further outlines guidelines to protect all LGBT students

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The federal government has issued new guidelines to protect Transgender students from sexual violence in schools.

In a guidance document issued April 29, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) makes clear for the first time that Trans students are protected from discrimination and violence under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX, renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, after its House sponsor Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), prohibits discrimination in school programs and activities on the basis of sex.

'No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,' the operative part of the act reads.

Since almost all public - and many private - schools receive federal funds, Title IX covers most educational institutions in the country.

While it is usually thought of as the law which enables girls to compete in school sports programs, Title IX mandates wide-ranging protections for students, including protections against sexual violence, and authorizes schools to 'investigate and remedy' instances of sexual violence.

The new guidelines say explicitly that gender identity is covered under Title IX, and that schools must act to protect Trans students.

'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,' the civil rights office says in the guidance document.

'Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school's obligations. Indeed, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence.'

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) 'transgender and gender non-conforming people face staggering rates of discrimination in schools. For example, 78% report harassment, 35% report physical assault, and 12% report sexual violence in educational settings, with many transgender and gender non-conforming students leaving school because of the appalling discrimination they experience.'

The guidelines also warn schools that anti-Gay violence is covered under Title IX.

'A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence,' the DOE writes.

'The fact that incidents of sexual violence may be accompanied by anti-gay comments or be partly based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation does not relieve a school of its obligation under Title IX to investigate and remedy those instances of sexual violence.'

Schools also have an obligation to provide counselors who are trained to deal with LGBT students, OCR said. 'In addition, a school should ensure that staff are capable of providing culturally competent counseling to all complainants,' OCR's guidelines say.

'Thus, a school should ensure that its counselors and other staff who are responsible for receiving and responding to complaints of sexual violence, including investigators and hearing board members, receive appropriate training about working with LGBT and gender-nonconforming students and same-sex sexual violence.'

LGBT rights groups applauded the new guidelines.

'The policy announced today is a giant leap forward in ending those staggering rates of discrimination,' NGLTF said in a statement. 'We applaud the Department of Education for stating that transgender and gender non-conforming students have legal protection under federal law, and that all federally funded education programs or activities must include protections on the basis of gender identity.'

'The guidance released today builds on numerous court decisions and a landmark ruling from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission establishing that transgender people are protected under existing prohibitions on sex discrimination,' the ACLU said in a statement.

Several states have also enacted protections for Transgender students, in part because their officials feared lawsuits brought under Title IX. To date, California, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, and Washington allow Trans students to participate in sports and other school activities based on the gender they identify with.

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