The issue of gender identity has been in flux for years. Up until now, in New Jersey schools, a transgender student’s right to act consistent with their gender identification was a matter of luck. Some New Jersey transgender students have been fortunate to live in progressive school districts that allowed for free expression and exercise of gender identification. Others had to live in secrecy and fear or torment for lack of such policies.
Anti-discrimination laws are varied and complex. States and localities have adopted a patchwork of laws to protect various groups from discriminatory practices. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes it unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on a variety of traits, including sexual orientation. It applies to activities in public schools, but it does not provide any guidance on how to provide protections against gender discrimination.
Recently the Commissioner of Education released guidelines for how schools should act to protect the rights of transgender students. The guidelines address an overarching goal for schools to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment that is free from discrimination and harassment for transgender students, including students going through a gender transition.
The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) helped to develop guidelines needed to replace federal guidance on transgender rights issued by former President Barack Obama that were later revoked by President Trump.
Specific Areas of Protection
The guidelines address how specific situations are to be handled. Schools need to provide for transgender students to:
- Be addressed at school by their preferred name and pronoun, regardless of whether they have legally changed their name
- Dress in accord with their transgender identity
- Participate in physical education in accord with their transgender identity
Transgender Student Restrooms
One issue that has gotten national attention is the use of restrooms and locker rooms. The guidelines state that transgender students cannot be forced to use a restroom or locker room that conflicts with their gender identity. Schools may provide a unisex bathroom, while allowing students who are not transgender to use a unisex facility, if they feel uncomfortable. This accommodation might be hard to implement considering these facilities options need to be met within preexisting buildings.
Part of what must happen to address the needs of transgender students and their peers is for school counselors to become knowledgeable of transgender issues. The guidelines provide education of school counselors and require schools to allow and support the formation of student clubs or programs regarding lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. This can go a long way for mutual understanding and acceptance among straight and LGBTQ students.
Ocean County Gender Discrimination Lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. Represent LGBTQ Individuals
If you or someone you know has experienced gender discrimination, our Ocean County gender discrimination lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. will stand with you in defending against these crimes. Call 609-348-1300 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. With an office in Atlantic City, New Jersey, we represent clients from the surrounding areas, including Ocean County, Atlantic County, and Cape May County.