California has taken a huge step forward in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of transgender students in public schools!
The School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) was approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. AB 1266 is the first-of-its-kind, and will protect transgender students and allow students in public K-12 schools choose which programs, activities, and facilities to use based on gender identity. California already has state laws that prohibit schools from discrimination based on gender identity, but the legislation provides further protections for transgender students. The bill goes into effect January of next year.
Every student should have a fair chance to fully participate and succeed in school so that they can graduate with their classmates. But in many cases, students who are transgender are unable to get the credits they need to graduate on time when they do not have a place to get ready for gym class. They are denied important educational opportunities when they are not allowed to participate in school activities based on who they are.
“I’m so excited that California is making sure transgender students have a fair chance to graduate and succeed,” said Calen Valencia, an 18-year-old transgender student from Tulare. “I should have graduated this year, but my school refused to give me the same opportunity to succeed as other boys. Now other transgender youth won’t have to choose between being themselves and graduating high school.”
Although trans people are frequently the targets of violence in public bathrooms and other gendered spaces, anti-LGBT groups have propagated myths to stir up fear and transphobia – frequently in the interest of defeating non-discrimination legislation or diverting attention away from other issues. Opponents of AB 1266 claim the presence of transgender students in bathrooms and locker rooms that correlate with their gender identity will endanger non-transgender students, despite overwhelming evidence that it is trans people who face pervasive violence in these spaces. In 2011, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Trans Equality released the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a first-of-its-kind report surveying over 6,000 transgender people in the United States. Over half of the participants reported experiencing harassment in public accommodations (bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, etc.) and 10% reported being physically attacked.
California’s law builds on a national movement to end discriminatory practices and ensure transgender youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other students. Massachusetts and Colorado have statewide policies in line with AB 1266, and the Colorado and Maine state human rights commissions have held that state law requires schools to respect students’ gender identity. Additionally, many school districts across the country have adopted policies that ensure no student is left out, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district.
For more information, contact our partners at Transgender Law Center: www.transgenderlawcenter.org.
Category: News: Transgender Justice