Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are reminding school districts that they have a responsibility to protect transgender students from discrimination — regardless of actions by the federal government to limit those protections.
Elia and Schneiderman sent a letter Wednesday, expressing their objection to the recent decision by the federal Department of Education not to investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students regarding access to bathroom facilities, according to a news release.
This comes on the heels of action last year by the Trump Administration reversed Obama-era guidance that said school districts should allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to gender with which they identify.
Elia stressed that the state’s Dignity for All Students Act prohibits bullying, discrimination, harassment on school property on the basis of a student’s gender identify or expression. The state Education Department issued guidance to school districts on July 2015 about creating a supportive environment for students.
“Given recent events and changes in priorities under the Trump administration, as parents, educators and leaders of state agencies we must all work together to protect all the children in our schools,” Elia said in a news release. “It is appalling to see the federal government refuse to investigate these important civil rights complaints from transgender youth, who are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State.,” she said in a news release.
Elia cited statistics that more than half of transgender students attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday.
Schneiderman said the Trump administration has made clear its disdain for the basic rights of transgender Americans.”
“Regardless of what happens in Washington, the law remains the law in New York — and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school,” he said in a news release. “My office will continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity.”