by Elizabeth Sponaugle
Last year, the Fairfax County School Board voted to extend the FCPS non-discrimination policy to include gender identity or gender nonconforming and transgender students. This vote follows the Obama Administration’s orders telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity to ensure that no student is discriminated against.
The School Board has received the regulation drafted by FCPS staff which detailed how FCPS plans to implement the new non-discrimination policy which would also bring FCPS into conformity with recent federal court rulings and U.S. Department of Education guidance. This regulation was to take effect at the start of the school year in September 2016.
Earlier this year the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance to provide educators with information needed to ensure all students, including transgender students, can go to school in an environment free of discrimination and cruelty.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. Despite this issue being clearly addressed under Title IX, questions have arisen from school districts and colleges about how to best ensure transgender students can all enjoy a safe and discrimination-free environment.
Just a few weeks after a new North Carolina law on transgender bathroom access, which prohibits protections against LGBTQ discrimination, and requires that people use the bathroom based on their sex assigned at birth, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled in favor of a transgender student. The student was born female and wishes to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school. However, the decision is causing more uproar regarding the transgender restroom law in North Carolina and if or how it complies to the new Department of Education guidelines.
“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in an interview with the New York Times. “This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly—that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”