California bill would protect transgender students

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced the School Success and Opportunity Act, Assembly Bill 1266, co-authored by Sens. Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara. The bill will ensure that California public schools understand their responsibility for the success and well-being of all students, including transgender students, and will allow transgender students to fully participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities.

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students are still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education classes help students develop healthy fitness habits and teach values like teamwork and fair competition – and count toward graduation as much as any other course.

“We have heard from scores of parents concerned that their children are at risk for dropping out of school merely because they are transgender,” said Masen David, Transgender Law Center executive director. “It breaks my heart to see our youth excluded from activities at school simply because of who they are. This bill is urgently needed to ensure that every student has a fair chance to fully participate and graduate.”

“Transgender students should have a fair chance at graduating. They shouldn’t be singled out and excluded,” said Joel Baum, a former middle school science teacher, principal and district administrator. “Students I’ve worked with who have been excluded from appropriate school programs and facilities have encountered medical issues as well as humiliation, significantly impacting their educational experience.” Baum is currently the director of Education and Training at Gender Spectrum.

The bill, AB 1266, would make it clear to school districts, teachers, parents and students that California’s nondiscrimination law requires public schools to respect a transgender student’s identity in all school programs, activities and facilities.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second-largest school district in the country and serves more than 670,000 students, successfully implemented a related policy to ensure that no one is left out.

“In addition to longstanding policies banning bullying, harassment, and discrimination, we have had specific policies banning discrimination based on gender since 2005. We have firsthand experience seeing the value that recognizing the rich diversity of our school communities has on enriching the lives of all students,” said Judy Chiasson, program coordinator for human relations, diversity and equity at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The Massachusetts Department of Education recently issued guidelines requiring all Massachusetts public schools to ensure that transgender students are fully included in physical education, sports, and access to other programs and facilities.

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