The Associated Press

Mass. Education Department Issues Rules On Transgender Students

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Education on Friday issued directives for handling transgender students, including allowing them to use the bathrooms or play on the sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The guidance was issued at the request of state board of education to help schools follow the state’s 2011 anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people.

“These students, because of widespread misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives, are at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying,” the document read.

Gunner Scott of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition the welcomed the guidance, saying it would be “immensely helpful to those parents who have been struggling with making sure that the school environment is safe and welcoming of their child.”

But the Massachusetts Family Institute said allowing transgender boys to use girls’ bathrooms, and vice versa, endangers other students and violates their privacy.

“Fundamentally, boys need to be use boys’ rooms and girls need to be using the girls’ rooms, and we base that on their anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity,” said Andrew Beckwith, general counsel for the institute.

The education department said it prepared the 11-page document after consulting policies in several states, as well as advocacy groups, parents and students.

The document said whether a student identifies as a boy or girl is up to the student or, in the case of younger students, the parents.

In all cases, “the student may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student’s gender identity,” it said.

The guidance said some students may feel uncomfortable sharing those facilities with a transgender student but this “discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.” It urges administrators to resolve issues on a case-by-case basis, and recommends sufficient sex-neutral restrooms and changing areas.

The guidance also addresses what to do if other students consistently and intentionally refuse to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify as: “It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline.”

Beckwith said the guidance forces students to ignore “a basic truth of anatomy” or face punishment. He also said the guidance is an end run around the state Legislature, which specifically excluded public accommodations, such as rest rooms and locker rooms, from the 2011 bill.

But education department spokesman JC Considine said school restrooms aren’t public accommodations.

“We’re talking about the use of school facilities by students who have no choice but to be in a school building,” Considine said. “Kids have to have restroom access.”

Scott said disciplining students who won’t acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying. He said the directives simply aim to create a safe learning place for a group that’s statistically far more likely to be harassed.

“The reality is that it’s about creating an inclusive environment for all students to learn,” he said.

 

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  • http://profiles.google.com/annajcook Anna Cook

    Three cheers! The Mass. DoE’s new guidelines sound really affirming, and hopefully they’ll make the lives of trans* students that much less of a daily struggle. I’m particularly impressed that they include guidelines for handling other students who repeatedly refuse to acknowledge the trans student’s self-identification.

    One small point of correction: you write, “allowing transgender boys to use girls’ bathrooms…” Unless this is a quote from the Massachusetts Family Institute, which seems to be deliberately mis-gendering trans* students, I believe you mean transgender GIRLS, since it is the students who identify as female who would seek to use the girls’ bathrooms.

    See the Fenway Health glossary of gender and transgender terms (PDF), “transwoman” and “transman” for more explanation on the language conventions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      “transman” thats new to me. he (she?) should have some kind of superpowers

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    as long as we have boys and girls rooms and boys and girls teams this will create all sort of issues maybe if we would do away with those things then gender choice would be a moot point. yet another reason why all children will attend virtual public schools in the not too distant future.

  • http://twitter.com/vinyrd50 kelsy

    “But the Massachusetts Family Institute said allowing transgender boys to use girls’ bathrooms, and vice versa, endangers other students and violates their privacy.”

    Endangers?!! How so??? Let’s see the data MFI Or is this just fear mongering!? Trans people are not perverts. This isn’t about sex!! It’s about identity.
    These people boil my blood!!

  • http://twitter.com/JulieBeam1 Beam51

    So they are going to actually legalize bulling the other students that don’t ‘conform’ to the schools views? Wow. I also think this is going to set the school up for some lawsuits when a transgender who tries to play in a sports their body really isn’t able to do and gets seriously hurt. And I think the bathroom and locker room situation is also going to put them more at risk for being beat up! I think it would be better and safer to have one of those non-gender bathrooms that only allows one person in at a time. Sadly there will be, especially teenagers pretending to be transgender that just walks into a bathroom for a peep show…how is the school going to protect the students? Transgender is actually very rare.

  • concerned parent

    An 18 year old biological male [regardless of how they self-identify] in my 14 year old daughter’s locker room [bathroom and shower]? How is this ok?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Boys are boys and girls are girls regardless what they think they are. So a boy is a boy today and next week a girl and then the following week a boy. I hope the MFI gets sued. No one can offend you, you have to choose to be offended. I have seen schools and society bow down to the minority but this has to take the cake. I think they should shutdown the Mass schools and let parnets home school all of their children if the children are to get a well balanced education.

  • Astounded

    Wow! Talk about creating confusion! The Mass. Dept. of Ed. is creating problems with this policy that they can scarcely imagine. This policy will create gender and identity confusion, not to mention the potential for abuse and harrassment. This policy is the gender indentity version of the story of the emporer’s new clothes. Gender is an anatomical reality, not a corrupted philosophy on ‘gender identity’ independent of the anatomy. People may have different personalities which include characteristics that we identify with masculinity and feminity, but that does not change gender. No Kudos whatsoever to the MDoE for this folly move.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.cohee Peter Cohee

    We might call this dressing up a bad idea in the gown of justice. And the metaphor seems to fit the topic. Note the buzzwords: “deny access,” “bullying,” “inclusiveness,” and that excellent phrase “the reality is.” Their rhetorical effect is to obliterate every value except the one favored by the oppressed minority victims du jour. “I am Tolerance and thou shalt have no other gods before me.” I am unable to enter into the enlightened and sophisticated opinions of Ms Cook et al. We are not better people by being gullible and intellectually lazy. I do know for certain that the denial of nature, especially human nature, in favor of some cherished legal abstraction leads right to ruin.

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