Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Gender Identity and Expression Discrimination In Schools

Connecticut may have gotten off to a slow start in passing the gender inclusive non-discrimination statute (PA11-55) but we have become a leader in implementing the law. Two years ago the CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) issued the “Guidelines for Schools on Gender Identity and Expression” which became a model to other states. And now the CHRO has released a “Dear Colleague” letter.

In 2010, the US Dept. of Ed, Office of Civil Rights released a “Dear Colleague” letter the said, “Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination” and the Connecticut “Dear Colleague” is about the Connecticut law and is modeled on the federal letter.
March 4,2013
School Principal,
PTA/PTO President

Dear Colleague:

In February, 2011, this office sent you a letter discussing the "Dear Colleague" letter that was issued by the Federal Office of Civil Rights in October 2010 that addressed the issue of bullying and harassment in schools and provided examples of how a school's failure to address instances of bullying and harassment can violate civil rights. Both this agency and the Connecticut Department of Education continue to receive complaints about harassment and discrimination against students including but not limited to students who are transgendered.

The purpose of this letter is to remind you that, in addition to being a Federal Civil Rights violation, harassment and bullying on the basis of race, color, religion or creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, marital status, age, lawful source of income, mental retardation, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, constitute a violation of Connecticut laws. Discrimination on the basis of transgender status is illegal, as codified by Public Act 11-55, which added "gender identity or expression" to the protected classes covered under Connecticut law. A more detailed explanation about gender identity discrimination is contained in the "Doe" declaratory ruling issued by this agency in 2000, which can be found on the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities' website. As "places of public accommodation", public schools have an affirmative obligation to prevent and respond to harassment and bullying that is based on the protected class of the victim. As parents, teachers and school administrators, you have both the ability and obligation to prevent bullying and to eliminate its harmful effects.
I know that many schools are ignoring the law and are claiming that requiring trans-students to use the faculty or school nurse bathrooms is for safety reasons. As this letter shows, the schools are required to have safe schools for all and by claiming that for safety a trans-student has to be isolated is admitting that they are not obeying the law.

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