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NC Education Lawyer Blog

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Protecting our PRIDE: Ensuring A Safe and Inclusive Learning Environment for Transgender Students

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

A lioness cares deeply for her young, and will protect them relentlessly. She will also protect her pride, if needed, simply because her instinct is to protect her family. Like the lioness, The Law Office of Neubia L. Harris, PLLC is committed to protecting ALL students. Unfortunately, transgender students have faced increasing discrimination and harassment in U.S. schools. Recently, some state and federal laws and policies began to protect their rights. Nonetheless, we are far from we should be with regard to ensuring transgender student's right to a safe and inclusive learning environment. This blog post discusses the current rights that K-12 transgender students have and their ongoing struggles to access a safe and inclusive learning environment. It aims to raise public awareness of the issue and encourage support for policies that promote equal rights and opportunities for transgender youth.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbids discrimination based on sex in any educational programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. In 2016, the Obama administration issued guidance to schools saying that Title IX also protected transgender students from discrimination, including the right to use restrooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender identity. However, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance in 2017, leaving the states to decide how to treat transgender students. Currently, less than half of the U.S. states have explicit anti-discrimination laws that protect transgender students, and some have even passed laws restricting their access to bathrooms and sports teams.


The lack of clear and consistent policies on transgender student rights puts them at risk of harassment, bullying, and even physical harm. In a recent study by GLSEN, 75% of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school, and 59% reported avoiding bathrooms due to fear of harassment or assault. These experiences can have negative effects on their academic performance, mental health, and overall well-being.


Moreover, transgender students also face challenges in accessing appropriate healthcare and support services in schools. They often have to deal with unsupportive or uninformed school staff, health insurance that excludes transgender-related care, and social stigmatization that prevents them from seeking help. This lack of access to healthcare can have serious consequences for transgender students, who are at higher risk of suicide, depression, and substance abuse than their non-transgender peers.


To address these issues, advocates are pushing for more comprehensive and affirmative policies that recognize and respect gender diversity and promote a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. These policies include non-discrimination laws, inclusive sex education, gender-affirming healthcare, supportive counseling and mentorship, and training for school staff and students on gender issues and inclusiveness. They also call for increased visibility and representation of transgender students in school curricula and extracurricular activities, such as sports teams and student organizations, to promote their social and emotional well-being and sense of belonging.


K-12 transgender students deserve equal rights and opportunities like any other students. Their right to a safe and inclusive learning environment should not be compromised by discrimination, prejudice, or lack of legal protection. The current legal and social landscape poses significant challenges to their well-being and success, but there is hope in ongoing advocacy and public awareness efforts. Everyone can play a part in advocating for and supporting transgender students by contacting their elected officials, educating themselves and others about gender diversity, and promoting anti-discrimination policies and practices in their communities. Together, we can help build a more equitable and inclusive world for all.

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