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K-12 Students: A Guide for Public and Charter Schools

Gender Nonconforming and Transgender K-12 Students:

A Policy & Practice Guide for Public and Charter Schools


Assigned Gender:
The gender role we are expected to conform to correlated to our birth sex (see below). This is particularly problematic for intersex or transgender-spectrum individuals.

Birth Sex:
Male, Female or Intersex. Birth sex is defined exclusively. This is most commonly confirmed by a prenatal or postnatal external examination of the genitals.

Gender Nonconforming (GNC):
Not fully conforming to gendered social expectations, whether that be interms of self-expression, roles or performance.

The Three R's

Administrators and educators want schools to provide safe environments for kids to explore new ideas and develop the social skills they will need in life. For gender nonconforming and transgender students however, school can be a place they associate only with frustration, torment and disrespect. Often, they experience these things as a result of action or inaction from school administration, staff and faculty.

Fortunately, students have federal, state and local RIGHTS, educators have RESPONSIBILITIES and school districts can establish REGULATIONS to protect gender nonconforming and transgender K-12 youth from intentional and unintentional discrimination.



Title IX:
As stated in their 2010 "Dear Colleagues" letter to school districts, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights considers gender identity and gender expression protected classes under Title IX. The DOE-OCR and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed and won suits on behalf of students against school districts for violation of these rights1.

Equal Access Act:
U.S. courts have interpreted this to mean that if a school allows one extracurricular student group to use school facilities, it must give equal access to all student groups, regardless of the focus or viewpoint of the group. Schools receiving federal funding have a choice to either permit access to benefits of school facilities for all extracurricular student groups or none of the extracurricular student groups2.



  • Oregon Equality Act
  • Oregon Safe Schools Act
  • Oregon School Activities Association 2013-14 Handbook (Sec. 85, pg. 95)


  • Washington Law Against Discrimination
  • Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association 2013-14 Handbook (Sec. 18.15.0, pg. 49)


  • Maine Human Rights Act
  • Doe v. Clenchy3


  • School Success and Opportunity Act


School districts have a responsibility to establish safe environments for all students. This is particularly critical for students we know might be susceptible to bullying and harassment as a result of societal prejudices or lack of awareness.

Havard School for Public Health

The results of the Growing Up Today Study4 (GUTS) were released in 2012. This study followed a large cohort (9,000+) of middle and high school students through their adolescent and teen years. It found that approx. 10% of students are at higher risk of PTSD as a consequence of bullying and harassment for gender nonconformity.

Only a small minority of these kids identified as either transgender or gay at the time the study ended.

At every grade level, GNC children and youth are at risk of suffering life-long psychological damage simply for not conforming to societal gender stereotypes.

It is the responsibility of administrators, faculty, staff and communities to examine their own attitudes about gender conformity, and to be aware that overt and covert enforcement of gender stereotypes on students creates an oppressive and unhealthy environment for ALL students, not simply those who are transgender.


The Los Angeles Unified School District adopted these comprehensive policy guidelines in 2005. They are a model of respect for transgender students.


  • instruct teachers to address students by the pronouns of their choice (i.e., "he" and "him," "she" and "her," or "they" and "their").
  • update the school’s student database to include his or her preferred name (which may be distinct from the student’s legal name).
  • direct staff to protect students’ privacy by disclosing gender identity on a need-to-know basis.
  • allow students to use the restroom or locker room that conforms to his or her gender and make alternatives available according to the preferences and needs of each student.
  • let students dress according to the gender identity that they consistently assert at school.
  • treat gender-identity based harassment or discrimination with the same seriousness as any other harassment or discrimination.
  • allow for the possibility of transfer between schools when necessary

By adopting thorough guidelines for administrators, faculty and staff, school districts can establish safe, respectful environments for gender nonconforming and transgender students at every grade level—and in the process, be compliant with federal, state and local non-discrimination and equal rights laws and regulations.


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