Post by Rohmteen Mokhtari, Former HRC Coordinator, Family Project

HRC’s recent landmark youth survey found that transgender students were twice as likely as gay and lesbian students to report being excluded by peers at school, that number went up to five times as likely when compared with non-LGBT students. Yesterday, the state of California took an important step towards addressing this injustice.

While a number of states have enacted policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools, the Success and Opportunity Act signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday is the nation’s first to specifically lay out what this looks like. Under the new law schools must provide equal access to public school facilities and activities based on a student’s gender identity.

The law passed with the support of a broad coalition of education groups that included the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Association of Schools Counselors and the California State PTA.

The Success and Opportunity Act is the latest example of the growing momentum to protect transgender students.

In June, Colorado’s civil rights division concluded that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District created a situation that would subject a six year old transgender student to harassment by barring her from use of the girls’ bathroom.

And just last month in an agreement the New York Times editorial board said “should be required reading for school officials at all levels nationally,” an Arcadia Unified School District settled a sex discrimination complaint with the civil rights divisions of the Departments of Education and Justice. The complaint was brought after the district prevented a transgender student from using the boys’ restroom and forced him to stay in a cabin separate from all other students during an overnight camping trip.

The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools initiative is hard at work building on this momentum to help elementary schools across the country become more inclusive. Working in partnership with organizations including Gender Spectrum and TransYouth Family Allies we have provided curriculum, training and support to schools looking to better support transgender and gender non-conforming students.

And just today we posted a new resource providing guidance for educators and parents on supporting students who are transitioning in elementary school.

We know from decades of experience and research that students learn best when they feel safe and included at school. But we also know that far too many transgender and gender non-conforming students are denied such a safe place to learn and thrive.

These students remind us why the progress being made in California and Colorado and Madison matters.

They also remind us just how much work we have left to do.

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