US gives directive to schools Friday on transgender bathroom access

MDCPS says it revised anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration says it wants to clarify what is expected of public schools when it comes to the rights of transgender students.

The departments of Education and Justice are releasing a directive Friday, reminding school districts that they are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity.

The directive says that includes their access to bathrooms and locker rooms.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego told Local 10 News in a statement that the school district revised its anti-discrimination and harassment policy five years ago to ensure that it included gender identity.

"Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a long-standing and robust anti-discrimination and harassment policy which leads with compliance with all federal law and regulations of the U.S. Department of Education," the statement read. "Furthermore, our policy was revised five years ago to include gender identity. We have provided training to school personnel regarding the rights of all students to ensure that our schools continue to be safe havens of hope and opportunity while protecting the privacy rights of all of our students."

Read MDCPS' full anti-discrimination/harassment policy for students:

The School Board shall comply with all Federal laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination and all requirements and regulations of the U.S. Department of Education. The Board will enforce its prohibition against discrimination/harassment based on sex, race, color, ethnic or national origin, religion, marital status, disability, age, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, social and family background, linguistic preference, pregnancy, and any other basis prohibited by law. The Board shall maintain an educational and work environment free from all forms of discrimination/harassment, which includes Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct such as unwelcome touching, graphic verbal comments, sexual jokes, slurs, gestures or pictures. All students, administrators, teachers, staff, and all other school personnel share responsibility for avoiding, discouraging, and reporting any form of prohibited discrimination or harassment against students by employees, other students and their parents or guardians, or third parties. This policy prohibits discrimination and harassment at all School District operations, programs, and activities on school property, or at another location if it occurs during an activity sponsored by the Board.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said he welcomes the federal directive.

"It really helps school districts, leaders of school boards, administrators to be able to find a path to creating equality," he said. "We need to move forward and figure out, how do we accommodate the needs of our transgender students in a country and a public school system where they have the same rights as anyone else."

According to Runcie, Broward County Public Schools has about 275,000 students, of which 13 percent identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The Obama administration hopes the new guidelines will promote transgender tolerance nationwide.

About the Authors: