The State's Department of Education has released a 12-page outline [PDF] on how schools should address transgender and gender-nonconforming students, offering for the first time a more structured framework to protect students whose needs have historically gone unrecognized.
The 2010 Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) acknowledges that transgender students are more often targets of bullying and ostracism—studies show that transgender students are twice as likely to report feeling unsafe at school than their peers. It's especially crucial, for that reason, that school officials work to make those students feel accepted and safe.
The report—a combined effort from groups like the New York Civil Liberties Union and Empire State Pride Agenda— offers guidance on implementing existing federal laws, offering real-life examples on issues like gender-based graduation gowns and locating facilities in which a transitioning student feels comfortable changing for gym class.
"This new document gives administrators practical guidance to ensure their schools are places where transgender and gender nonconforming students can focus on academics, friendships and their interests instead of worrying about how they will be treated by school staff and their peers," Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the policymaking Board of Regents, said in a statement.
Most of the points can be boiled down to this: Teachers and administrators should conform to whatever gender identity the student chooses. This means addressing students by the name of their choosing, as well as enabling them to use their preferred restroom or changing area. The guidelines also lay ground rules for how best to protect the privacy of a student whose parents might not know they are transgender.
In June, the NYCLU issued a report detailing the ways in which schools have failed to accommodate their transgender students. It called for comprehensive training for all school administrators in the state, as well as bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with gender identity.
"Most school staff receive little-to-no training on issues related to gender identity and expression," said Lauren Frederico, the report's author. "We have heard them ask repeatedly for the state to step in."