When trans youth have the freedom to be themselves, they thrive. Being embraced for who they are is incredibly important—especially at school. With Transgender Day of Visibility happening on Friday, March 31, we’re thinking about the trans community and how we can advocate for a state that is inclusive and just for all.
All students have the right to a quality education, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Unfortunately, the hostile climate created by the state legislature and the rhetoric around the proposed anti-LGBTQ laws are emboldening discriminatory behavior in schools. This has created a climate of fear among teachers and administrators who want to improve policies for LGBTQ youth, making it difficult for students to develop trusting relationships with their teachers or feel safe being themselves.
The ACLU of Arizona has heard and received many requests for help over the last year from trans youth who are suffering from discrimination, bullying, and harassment at school. As we celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, we acknowledge that with the increased visibility of the trans community, there is also an increased need for support and solidarity to ensure that all people are free to live their true and authentic lives without fear.
There are many trans youth that are supported and accepted by their parents—however, there are some that may not have that support and are unable to “come out” to their family. Students should be aware of a state law that inhibits their privacy and allows their parents full access to all of their school records. This is all-encompassing and can include any records the school counselor or nurse holds and even a list of the books they have checked out from the school library. Know of a trans youth whose parents need help understanding and supporting them? Check out these resources and support groups. The ACLU of Arizona works with groups like this to ensure that families know their rights and can advocate for their students at school.
If parents are supportive of their child, they can exercise their “parental rights” and ensure that their child gets treated fairly and respectfully. That is because these rights apply to all parents, regardless of their political affiliation, religious beliefs, or parenting style.
Additionally, a federal law called FERPA also allows parents to access their student’s school records, including grades and disciplinary records. More importantly, it permits a parent to demand that an incorrect or misleading record, such as one with an incorrect gender marker or name, be changed.
Title IX, a federal civil rights law that applies to virtually all public and charter schools, says school officials can’t discriminate against their students because of their race or “sex,” which includes gender identity or sexual orientation. It also requires schools to take action to protect students who are being bullied based on that basis. A few months ago, we heard from a trans student who was being discriminated against by his school district. We are filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on his behalf, which is something any public or charter school student can do, with or without an attorney. Learn more about how to file a complaint with OCR.
Whether you are a student or parent, one of the most important things to know is to document everything. A school district cannot address issues that are never reported. Students can confide in a trusted teacher or adult, communicate with their parents, and lean on their support system while standing up for their rights. If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with us.
Arizona is full of students, teachers, parents, and friends that love the trans youth in their lives and want to see them thrive and succeed. On this and every Transgender Day of Visibility, I’m proud to be part of and stand alongside the trans community.