For a trans boy in California, decisions issued by the US Justice and Education departments mean that life might be a bit better over all. The two federal departments issued rulings that the Arcadia school district outside of Los Angeles must change their policy and practices to accommodate the ninth-grade transsexual student. He must be allowed to use the appropriate school bathrooms and locker rooms.
The federal agencies will keep tabs on the district through, at least, 2016.
The school district will also keep the student’s birth name and records confidential, which they should be doing anyway. The student has not been identified.
The trans boy in the case will also have “the right to request a private locker room and other facilities for the sake of privacy or safety”, according to Politico. The departments also ordered that “he must be allowed to participate in any school activities on and off campus” intended just for boys.
This is the first time that the departments have intervened to force a school district to accommodate trans children’s locker room and restroom needs. In the past, they have intervened in order to force school districts to do more to prevent anti-LGBT bullying.
Asaf Orr, a staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, stated that “This sends a clear message to school districts around the country saying ‘This is what the federal government is going to be expecting of you.’” The NCLR is the group which filed the complaint on behalf of this young trans man.
The school district has not commented on the matter.
The Office for Civil Rights in the Education Department has recently reminded school districts of their responsibility to protect students against bullying, discrimination and other problems stemming from their gender, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender presentation. They also reaffirmed the right of students to form gay-straight alliances with the same privileges and responsibilities of other school groups.
The young trans man came out, likely inadvertently, to his parents at the age of five when he informed his parents that he had prayed to God to be made male. He began the process of transitioning when he was about ten. Luckily, he had very open minded and accepting parents.
According to Orr, the district was quick to quash any bullying or harassment of the student by his peers, but he was still stigmatized. He was required to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office instead of the boy’s lavatory or locker rooms. Doing so often required the young man to face uncomfortable questions regarding the long trip across campus, and sometimes he had to get school employees to unlock the door. Eventually, he came to the point of not using the facilities at all during the day.
In seventh grade, he faced further humiliation at the hands of the school district during an overnight trip taken by the students without their parents. He was segregated into a cabin on his own and had to be chaperoned by his father.
Orr stated that “I know that he and his family feel at ease now, going into high school with all this in place. He can focus on being a kid and learning.”
The case comes after a decision by the Colorado civil rights agency that forced the Fountain-Fort Carson School District to treat 6-year-old Coy Mathis properly as a girl and give the young trans girl access to the same facilities as all girls.