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HRC Responds to Gov. McCrory’s Resistance to Dept. of Education’s Guidance on Transgender Students

by Stephen Peters May 13, 2016

Today, HRC released the following statement in response to Governor Pat McCrory’s resistance to newly issued Department of Education guidance for school districts ensuring transgender students will be treated with dignity in public and federally funded schools, including by having appropriate access to facilities consistent with their gender identity.

"Every student deserves a chance to be safe and to thrive in school, and that's what the Department of Education's guidance is all about," said HRC Communications Director Jay Brown. "Governor McCrory has shamefully decided to play politics with the lives of transgender students – and is also demonstrating his lack of knowledge about the law. These guidelines, which teachers and administrators were requesting, are supported by case law and have been enforced now for years. In fact, the Fourth Circuit recently ruled in favor of a transgender student suing his school for exactly the type of discrimination that is described in this guidance. Governor McCrory – and any governor who expresses similar resistance to complying with federal civil rights law – risks not only losing billions in federal funding but also risks the safety of students."

North Carolina’s recently-passed anti-LGBT law, known as HB2, in part prohibits public school students from using restrooms and other school facilities consistent with their gender identity, and it points to the increasing urgency for the administration’s guidance on access to public facilities. The law also overturns municipal protections for LGBT people at the local level, bars transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity in all publicly-owned property, and guts the ability of people who have been discriminated against - including on the basis of race, religion, and sex - to sue in state court.

Today’s guidance will be helpful for administrators who have asked for more specificity about how to comply with Title IX in regard to transgender students, and it is the next step in the pattern of implementation and enforcement that has been followed by the Departments of Education and Justice over the last several years, including in multiple enforcement actions and in federal court.  In North Carolina, this guidance will be particularly useful for school districts who are seeking to comply with federal civil rights laws despite the discriminatory mandate imposed upon them by HB2.

For more information about how HB2 violates Title IX, please refer to this letter that HRC released during the special session in which HB2 was considered. If Governor McCrory is surprised at the state of federal law regarding transgender children, that is because he and the General Assembly failed to do their due diligence before ramming HB2 through the legislature and signing it into law over the course of one day.

A survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings. A report by the Williams Institute found that half of transgender adults who were bullied in school had attempted suicide. These startling numbers can only be expected to rise if the North Carolina law, and other similar bills proposed in other states, continue to target these young people.

HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program also works extensively with teachers and administrators to support transgender and gender-expansive students, create LGBTQ-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and embrace family diversity. In 2015, the HRC Foundation, with the ACLU, Gender Spectrum, NCLR and the NEA, released Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12, which serves as the premiere best practices guide for schools nationwide.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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