Reykdal: State Laws Will Continue to Protect Transgender Students
OLYMPIA — FEBRUARY 23, 2017 — In May 2016, the federal Education and Justice Departments issued guidance on transgender students. The guidance required that schools treat students “consistent with the student’s gender identity.” On Wednesday evening, that guidance was rescinded by the Education and Justice Departments.
Washington state law, though, protects transgender students from discrimination in school, which includes names and pronouns, dress codes, student participation in sports and physical education, harassment, and students' use of restrooms and locker rooms. The federal guidance will not affect state law.
A brief history
In 2006, sexual orientation and gender identity were added as protected classes to the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Four years later, the Legislature passed a law (codified as
Revised Code of Washington 28A.642) explicitly protecting students in Washington public schools against discrimination.
As a result of that law, OSPI in February 2012 issued formal guidelines entitled, “Prohibiting Discrimination in Washington Public Schools.” The guidelines specifically address access to restrooms and locker rooms:
- On restrooms: “School districts should allow students to use the restroom that is consistent with their gender identity consistently asserted at school” (p. 30);
- On locker rooms: “No student … should be required to use a locker room
that conflicts with his or her gender identity” (p. 31).
School districts are required to comply with the guidelines – and have been doing so successfully for five years. The new guidance from the Education and Justice Departments states that “there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” In short, our state laws continue to protect our transgender students.
My job as Superintendent is to ensure every student in our state receives a high-quality education. Our state laws are explicit. We must not discriminate against our students, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Our state has a long and proud history of embracing differences, and I will not back down from that.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and improve student achievement on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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