The city's Department of Education has adopted basic guidelines for how to address transgender students, codifying everything from preferred gender pronouns to the issue of locker rooms.
The guidelines are far from revelatory, and acknowledge that the details will continue to change and evolve with time. Nevertheless, the basic framework is there: Students should be addressed by school staff by their preferred name and gender, and students should not be required to use a restroom or locker room that conflicts with their gender identity. The guidelines also wade into trickier territory, like how to best support a student who is "transitioning" and how to curb bullying.
If school staff believe that a gender identity issue is presenting itself and creating challenges for the student at school or if a student indicates an intention to transition, the school should make every effort to work with the student and the child’s parents. Where the student indicates an intention to transition, the school should work with the family to prepare for a formal gender transition at school and put in place measures for supporting the child and creating a sensitive supportive environment at school.
School staff are asked to develop "age-appropriate lessons" for students on gender diversity and acceptance, as well as respond promptly to any allegations of bullying. But while the guidelines are certainly a step in the right direction, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund takes issue with the lack of clarity on issues like competitive sports and sex-segregated facilities. From TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman:
This is a big step in the right direction, but transgender kids face unique challenges in school that require more. Officials need to ensure that transgender students have the same opportunities as all students that allow them to thrive. That means treating them as the boys and girls that they are, including letting them use bathrooms that match their true identities. Anything less stigmatizes them as the only boys and girls who are forced to use separate facilities.
In addition, schools must allow transgender kids to play competitive sports just like all other students. The values of teamwork and fair play that school sports teach are important for everyone in school, including transgender students. Ensuring that transgender students can take part in their school environments as their authentic selves keeps them safe, builds their confidence, and helps them to succeed in school. School districts around the country are recognizing the importance of supporting transgender students. We’re happy to see New York City following suit, and would like to see its school system become an even better ally to transgender students.