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Education Law Center applauds Pittsburgh and Philadelphia School Districts for protecting rights of transgender students

The Education Law Center applauds Pittsburgh Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia for protecting the rights of transgender students with new policies enacted this month.

The two largest school districts in Pennsylvania join a growing number of districts in the region and country to adopt new policies that expressly recognize the rights of transgender students to be free from discrimination and referred to by their chosen name and pronoun, to dress according to their gender identity, and to use the bathroom and participate in athletics activities consistent with their gender identity.

The Pittsburgh Transgender and Gender Expansive Students policy also requires each school to form a “point team” consisting of teachers, counselors, and administrators given specialized training in responding to transgender and gender-expansive issues. These policies and practices build upon ELC’s advocacy in 2014 that resulted in changes to the Code of Student Conduct to strengthen protections for LGBTQ students.

We want to acknowledge that both districts have been on the forefront of this work and began taking steps to improve school climate for LGBTQ students even before federal guidance called for such action. In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education issued joint guidance clarifying that Title IX, the law that bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, protects transgender students. It makes clear that transgender students have the right to equal educational opportunities and to be educated in a positive school climate that is free from discrimination.

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission adopted its policy on June 16, 2016. The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board unanimously approved its policy on June 22, 2016.

While there is more work to be done to ensure that schools are welcoming, safe, and inclusive for all students, these policies are an important step and an encouraging example for districts across the Commonwealth.

Related Coverage:

  • In May, the Education Law Center applauded new Title IX guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • In April, ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman was quoted in TribLive on the need for positive school climate and policies that make schools safe and free from discrimination for all students.
  • In 2014, ELC was featured in an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covering the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ effort to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline and increase protections and supports for LGBTQ students, parenting students, and English language learners.