On Monday, two Oregon groups, Parents for Privacy and Parents Rights in Education, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Dallas School District’s implementation of Oregon’s public education guidelines protecting transgender and gender nonconforming students from harassment, discrimination and violence in schools.
These were desperately needed. Transgender students are far more likely to face bullying and harassment in schools. And, as a result, more than 40 percent of transgender people will attempt suicide in their lifetimes.
Two years ago, a courageous freshman at Dallas High School named Elliot Yoder came out publicly at a city council meeting in public testimony after a city council member posted transphobic comments on his Facebook page.
The District staff and board members were pressured by parents and community members who did not understand gender identity to not support Elliot and other transgender and gender nonconforming students at Dallas, creating a hostile school environment for these students.
The school district wanted to know what they could do to support all kids in Dallas schools, so they asked for guidance from the Oregon Department of Education. In May of 2016, they received their answer: Oregon’s Department of Education released guidelines for school districts that included information on names and pronouns, management of student records, gender based records and use of locker rooms and bathrooms.
The Dallas School District took clear steps to implement these guidelines and create a school where transgender students felt supported and affirmed. As educators, they know it is the job of our schools to make sure every student feels valued and respected — including transgender students.
While Oregon has some of the strongest protections against discrimination in the country, suicide remains a monumental crisis for our community.
This is why this lawsuit is deeply troubling and harmful. It increases the likelihood that a transgender student will experience hostility at school and in the world. That more kids will feel this social rejection and not see a future for themselves. These extremist groups would open transgender students up to harassment, discrimination, and violence if they are allowed to set school policy.
Basic Rights Oregon will vigorously fight any attempt to rollback these guidelines.
With your support, we can fight back against hate.