GAY, BIRTHRIGHT AND NONDISCRIMINATION: Parents are still searching for answers after school officials and the Department of Education released a series of new guidelines for transgender students.
The new guidelines include setting up a designated safe space for transgender children to access the same level of support they do for their peers.
But while the guidelines are great, parents and educators need to make sure transgender students aren’t pushed to the sidelines.
Parents need to work together to create safe and inclusive environments for their kids, and to teach the students the rules of engagement and consent that they’ll need to navigate a world that has changed since their families were first born.
“We are all responsible for our children’s safety, and the safety of our school communities, and that is what the new guidelines are trying to address,” said Michaela Smith, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“We’re not saying it’s OK for our kids to have access to the same restrooms and locker rooms as other kids, but it’s important that they understand what’s expected of them.
And that they know when they’re coming out to their parents and when they have to be respectful.”
Parents are still working through the guidelines, and some of the questions remain unanswered.
The guidelines are being released in response to concerns about safety at school for transgender and gender nonconforming students.
The guidelines suggest that schools can have a safe space to work with their transgender students if they meet certain requirements.
However, the guidelines also note that there’s no obligation to have a gender-neutral restroom, and only one designated bathroom.
For transgender and nonconformers, school officials say that a safe and supportive space can be an important part of transitioning.
“It’s important to note that transgender students do not have to share bathrooms with their peers and that they do not need to use a single restroom or locker room,” said David R. Meeks, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights.
“In fact, they should have a choice of where to go, and what they need to do.”
Parents can set up their own designated spaces for transgender kids, including using locker rooms or restrooms that match their gender identity, to help them identify with their gender.
However:Transgender students do have to abide by the same gender norms that apply to everyone else, and schools should also make sure that their students have the same access to school supplies, including school uniforms.
“Our kids deserve to be safe at school,” said Stephanie Korn, executive assistant to the president for education and the director of a national organization that works with schools on LGBT issues.
“And if they have a room in which they feel safe and welcome, that room should not be a place where they’re being excluded from school.
And they need that room.”
The guidelines include a “safe room” for transgender school students to use, which should include locker rooms and bathrooms that match gender identity.
Parents and staff should also be aware of what happens in bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms.
The guidance states that transgender youth should be allowed to use bathrooms of the gender they identify with.
Schools can use their discretion to determine what bathrooms are appropriate.
Some schools are using a mix of different options to create safer spaces for their transgender and transgender-identifying students.
Schools that don’t offer a “neutral restroom” for their students can have them use bathrooms that align with their identities.
For example, a school can use a restroom that reflects their gender expression or appearance, but not the gender identity of the student.
Schools can also create “gender-neutral bathrooms” that meet their needs.
These bathrooms include bathrooms that reflect gender identity and expression.
For instance, a district could create a gender neutral bathroom for transgender youth that has a single, single-stall restroom and separate shower stalls, and separate restrooms for boys and girls.
Other school districts are using an “equity-based bathroom” where the bathrooms are shared between the gender binary of “male” and “female.”
These bathrooms are made up of single-use bathrooms, but each bathroom is assigned a different name, like a gender identity bathroom.