MANHATTAN — The Trump Administration's decision on Wednesday to rescind federal guidelines that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity will have little effect on New York City schools, which have had their own protections in place for several years.
While the federal guidelines for transgender students was issued in 2016 by the Obama administration amid the White House’s legal fight with North Carolina over the issue, New York City already issued its own rules two years before that — and has no plans to repeal them, according to officials.
“The DOE’s Transgender Guidelines have been in place since 2014 and remain in effect in all NYC public schools,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement. “We are dedicated to ensuring every student is provided with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment in all school buildings, and that includes allowing students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.”
The city's protocols — which specify that students should be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities — also include information on what pronouns should be used, how to deal with dress code issues and sports teams as well as resources on how to support students who are transgender or transitioning.
Under the guidelines, school staff should not disclose information that might reveal a student’s transgender status, and schools are supposed to use the name and gender preferred by the student.
The New York State Education Department also issued its own guidelines in 2015 to help foster inclusive educational environments for transgender students and to help schools comply with local, state and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment, discrimination and student privacy.
Many advocates anticipated the federal government’s move to remove the protections for transgender students.
But the decision was not supported initially by new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to the New York Times, which reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions — an opponent of expanding LGBT rights — convinced her to agree after enlisting President Donald Trump’s help.
DeVos issued a statement saying such protections were not a matter for the federal government.
“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students,” she said.
She added, “At my direction, the Department's Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the decision to rescind the guidelines “yet another cruel move by an administration committed to divisive policies that roll back the clock on civil rights.”
He vowed to enforce New York’s guidelines on protecting transgender students.
“I will do whatever it takes to protect transgender and all LGBTQ New Yorkers, no matter what happens in Washington,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “That's why my office will ensure that Title IX and New York’s own civil rights protections are enforced — because policies that ensure equality also promote safe and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities, benefiting everyone.”