Transgender Student Guidelines

Many questions arise for students and school staff when considering the best supports for transgender students.  These guidelines are designed to provide direction for schools to address issues that may arise concerning the needs of transgender students.  Because this is an evolving area for school districts, some of this guidance will undoubtedly change over time.  

These guidelines are intended to help schools ensure a safe learning environment free of discrimination and harassment, and to promote the educational and social integration of transgender students.  They do not anticipate every situation that may occur and the needs of each student must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  Every student and school is unique and building administrators should discuss these issues with students and their families and draw on the experiences and expertise of their colleagues as well as external resources where appropriate. 

Definitions:

1. “Gender Identity” is a person’s inner sense of being male or female, regardless of their biological gender assigned at birth. 
2. “Transgender” is a term which describes people whose gender identity or gender expression is different from their assigned sex at birth.
3. “Gender expression” refers to the way a person expresses gender to others in ways that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice or mannerisms.

Discrimination/Harassment

It is the policy of the New York City Department of Education to maintain a safe and supportive learning and educational environment that is free from harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying and free from discrimination on account of actual or perceived race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, or weight. 

Complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived transgender status or gender nonconformity must be handled in accordance with the procedures set forth in Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 (for student-on-student allegations) and Chancellor’s Regulation A-830 (for staff-on-student allegations).

Privacy

Except as set forth herein, school personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status. Under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), only those school employees with a legitimate educational need should have access to a student’s records or the information contained within those records.  Disclosing confidential student information to other employees, students, parents, or other third parties may violate privacy laws, including but not limited to FERPA. Transgender students have the ability, as do all students, to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and decide when, with whom, and how much of their private information to share with others.

Schools should work closely with the student and family in devising an appropriate plan regarding the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status that works for both the student and the school.  Privacy considerations may also vary with the age of the student.      

In some cases, transgender students may feel more supported and safe if other students are aware that they are transgender.  In these cases, school staff should work closely with the student, families and other staff members on a plan to inform and educate the student’s peers.  It may also be appropriate to engage external resources to assist with educational efforts.  A list of support organizations for transgender students is listed at the end of this document.

Official Records

Each school is required to maintain a permanent pupil record of each student, which includes the legal name of the student as well as the student’s biological gender. In addition, schools are required to use a student’s legal name and biological gender on standardized tests and reports to the State Education Department.

To the extent that the school is not legally required to use a student’s legal name or gender on school records and other documents, the school should use the name and gender preferred by the student. 

A student’s permanent pupil record should be changed to reflect a change in legal name or gender only upon receipt of documentation that such legal name and/or gender have been changed pursuant to applicable law.

• The documentation required for a legal change of name is a court order or birth certificate demonstrating the student’s new name.  

• For a legal change of gender, the student must provide a birth certificate indicating the student’s gender, or a valid passport indicating the student’s gender.   

The following procedures should be followed if a school receives a request to change a student’s record to reflect a change in legal name and/or gender.  For students who are currently enrolled in a New York City public school, the school in which the student is enrolled should make the name and/or gender change in ATS upon receipt of the required documentation. For students who have been discharged, the school should forward the request for the name and/or gender change to the Network data/applications specialist with the appropriate documentation. The Network will follow-up to make sure the appropriate change is made in ATS.

In all cases, in order to ensure that records accurately reflect circumstances in effect at the time each record was made, that records can be cross-referenced, and in order to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status to the extent possible, the former name and/or gender will be maintained in archived data in the DOE’S central database.

Names/Pronouns

Students should be addressed by school staff by the name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.  Students are not required to obtain a court ordered name and/or gender change or to change their pupil personnel records as a prerequisite to being addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity.  To the extent possible and consistent with these guidelines, school personnel should make efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the student’s transgender status.  

Student IDs should be issued in the name that reflects a student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.

Sports and Physical Education

Transgender students are to be provided the same opportunities to participate in physical education as are all other students.  Generally, students should be permitted to participate in physical education and sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity that is consistently asserted at school.  Participation in competitive athletic activities and contact sports will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

Restroom and Locker Room Accessibility

The DOE aims to support transgender students while also ensuring the safety and comfort of all students.  The use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students requires schools to consider numerous factors, including, but not limited to: the transgender student’s preference; protecting student privacy; maximizing social integration of the transgender student; minimizing stigmatization of the student; ensuring equal opportunity to participate; the student’s age; and protecting the safety of the students involved.  

A transgender student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy should be provided with reasonable alternative arrangements.  Reasonable alternative arrangements may include the use of a private area, or a separate changing schedule, or use of a single stall restroom.  Any alternative arrangement should be provided in a way that protects the student’s ability to keep his or her transgender status confidential.  

A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity.

Gender Segregation in Other Areas

As a general rule, in any other circumstances where students are separated by gender in school activities (i.e. overnight field trips), students should be permitted to participate in accordance with their gender identity consistently asserted at school.  Activities that may involve the need for accommodations to address student privacy concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis considering the factors set forth above.  

Dress Codes

Schools can enforce dress codes that are adopted pursuant to Chancellor’s Regulation A-665.  Students have the right to dress in accordance with their gender identity that is consistently asserted at school, within the constraints of the dress codes adopted at their school site.   

Resources for Transgender or “Transitioning” Students

Schools have a unique and powerful opportunity to support transgender students, including those going through a gender transition, while providing education to the entire school community.   It is not unusual for a child’s desire to transition to first surface at school.  If school staff believe that a gender identity issue is presenting itself and creating challenges for the student at school or if a student indicates an intention to transition, the school should make every effort to work with the student and the child’s parents. Where the student indicates an intention to transition, the school should work with the family to prepare for a formal gender transition at school and put in place measures for supporting the child and creating a sensitive supportive environment at school.   Toward that end, schools should: 

1) Make resources available to parents who have additional questions or concerns. 
2) Develop age-appropriate lessons for students about gender diversity and acceptance: and
3) Be especially vigilant for any bullying or harassment issues that may arise for transgender students.  Pursuant to DOE policy, schools must work to prevent bullying and harassment, and respond promptly when allegations of bullying and harassment arise.

Some transgender students do not want their parents to know about their transgender status.  These situations must be addresses on a case-by-case basis and require schools to balance the goal of supporting the student with the requirement that   parents be kept informed about their children. In these circumstances, you should confer with your Senior Field Counsel about how to proceed.

If the school has a School-Based Mental Health Clinic, this can be an important first resource for the student and school community. Providers are sensitive to identity issues and have been trained to be a source of support for students regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

The following organizations provide support to transgender individuals:

• GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) is a prominent organization supporting GLBT youth. They have resources about creating safe and supportive environments for students. 
 
• The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Resources For Parents, Educators, And Service Providers:

Founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization. 

PFLAG Resources

PFLAG NYC is the local PFLAG chapter for all five boroughs of New York City. In addition to general support and informational resources, it has a dedicated group for parents and families of transgender children, the TransParents Project.

Download this free guide (PDF) to get the basics on what being transgender means, how to talk about it, and how to find the resources that can support you.

There are more than 350 PFLAG chapters across the U.S. Find one near you right now

Partner Organizations Resources

Knowing and using correct language can be very important to transgender and gender non-conforming people, just like everyone else. Here is a handy terminology guide regarding gender identity.

This downloadable pamphlet from the APA answers questions about transgender people, gender identity and gender expression.

Parent and Educator Resources

Raising children who don’t fit neatly into male or female boxes brings a wealth of questions and uncertainties. Here you will find information and support to assist you in your search for answers.

The Trans Youth Equality Foundation is based in Maine, but offers education, advocacy and support for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth and their families everywhere by sharing information about the unique needs of this community and partnering with families, educators and service providers to help foster a healthy, caring, and safe environment for all transgender children.

Families in TRANSition: A Resource Guide for Parents of Trans Youth is the first comprehensive Canadian publication (created by Central Toronto Youth Services) to address the needs of parents and families supporting their trans children.  It summarizes the experiences, strategies, and successes of a working group of community consultants – researchers, counselors, parents, advocates as well as trans youth themselves

This gentle and easy-to-use FAQ gives people an accessible set of guidelines that can be used in everyday life.

Like all young people in care, transgender youth are entitled to bias-free attention to their unique needs and to be safe in their placements and services. This guide, created by Lambda Legal and the Child Welfare League of America, provides child welfare professionals who work with transgender young people with education about transgender issues and tools to help prepare them to work sensitively with these clients.

TYFA works to empower children and families by partnering with educators, service providers and communities, to develop supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected. They envision a society free of suicide and violence in which all children are respected and celebrated.


Questions/Inquiries
 
Any questions about these guidelines should be directed to your Senior Field Counsel.