Moving towards fair treatment for transgender students

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LOS ANGELES – Transgender students in California are one step closer to just treatment. Today, the California Senate Education Committee voted 5-2 to pass AB 1266 (the School Success and Opportunity Act), which would ensure that transgender students have equal access to facilities and activities like sports teams that match their gender identity. The bill passed the California Assembly in May, and now moves to the full Senate.

AB 1266 would ensure that students can be themselves and have a fair chance to succeed in school.  Why is this bill so important? Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old transgender boy from Manteca, explains it best.

“I just want to be treated the same as all the other boys,” Lee told the Senate Education Committee today.  “But my school forces me to take P.E. in a class of all girls and live as someone I’m not.  Every day in that class leaves me feeling isolated and alone, making it extremely difficult to learn.”

Absent the protections AB 1266 would guarantee, Lee is faced with a terrible choice: skip the class and risk not being able to graduate because P.E. is a graduation requirement, or, as Lee says, “lie about who I truly am.”

AB 1266 would ensure that no California public school student is forced to make such a choice. Transgender students would be able to join sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. They would not be barred from the appropriate bathrooms or locker rooms. In short, AB 1266 would allow transgender students to take part in all aspects of school life.

Editorializing in favor of AB 1266, the Los Angeles Times wrote that “discomfort is not a valid reason to allow discrimination.”

If it becomes law, the bill would remedy the current patchwork of policies. California law already bars discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression, but many transgender students are unfairly excluded from programs, activities, and facilities because schools don’t understand their obligations under the law.  While some school districts deny transgender students access to programs and facilities in a manner that respects their gender identity, other districts provide such protections and have policies that support transgender students. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, has had a successful policy in place since 2005.  “We’ve worked with students and families closely to ensure that our policies related to gender identity are successful, welcomed by students, and supported by parents,” Judy Chiasson, the Program Coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity at the LAUSD told the Senate Committee today.

Melissa Goodman, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU/SC

For more information about AB 1266, read the press release

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