In a Friday press release, NJ Governor Chris Christie's office noted that the governor "took action on dozens of bills," highlighting that the minimum age to smoke is 21 years (up from 18); measures relating to fighting the opioid epidemic; and protecting NJ's environment. Less publicized was how he signed a bill giving protections to transgender students in pubic schools.
About halfway down the release of newly signed bills is "S-3067/A-4652 (Ruiz, Vitale/Vainieri Huttle, Caride, Eustace, Jasey, Wimberly, Gusciora) - Requires Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students." Now public schools in New Jersey school districts will not be able to force transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms that conflict with their gender identity and, instead, will need to offer "reasonable alternative arrangements if needed to ensure a student's safety and comfort."
"This is a huge victory for equality in New Jersey, and we want to send a big thank you to Governor Christie for standing on the right side of history on this one," Garden State Equality proclaimed. "As he did with the conversion therapy ban, Governor Christie took a stand for LGBT youth in New Jersey by signing this important legislation, and he deserves our thanks."
After the Trump White House overturned Obama-era protections for transgender students, the Democratic-led NJ legislature proposed the bill. (NY State and NYC have maintained their commitment to transgender students' rights.)
Originally, Christie had said that individual school districts could determine how to handle transgender rights. Groups like the NJ Family Policy Council had been leading opposition to the bill, asking supporters to email their legislators with form letters noting, for instance, that it "violates the well-established privacy rights of other students who rightfully expect not to be seen in a state of undress by a member of the opposite biological sex."
Also, according to NJ.com, all public schools must:
- Allow students to dress in accordance with their gender identity.
- Create confidentiality plans to make sure school employees do not disclose a students transgender or transition status.
- Issue school documentation, such as identification cards, that match the student's gender identity.
- Let students participate in gym class with the gender that matches their identity.
The head of Garden State Equality, Christian Fuscarino, was effusive in his praise, and even involved Beachgate: