Massachusetts Establishes Transgender Student Policies

Thursday, 21 Feb 2013 04:26 PM

By Cyrus Afzali

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Massachusetts education officials this week issued new guidelines governing the handling of transgender students that give students the ability to pick the sex of the sports teams on which they play, as well as the bathrooms they can use, Fox news reports.

The guidelines define a transgender student as one “whose assigned birth sex does not match the internalized sense of their gender.”

The 11-page directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education also urges schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and activities, such as having boys and girls form separate lines to leave the classroom. In addition, schools will now have to accept the gender that a particular student declares.

Department officials say the responsibility for determining a student’s gender rests with the student. The rules would also prohibit teachers and administrators from telling parents the gender to which their child identifies.

“One’s gender identity is an innate, largely inflexible characteristic of each individual’s personality that is generally established by age four . . . As a result, the person best situated to determine a student’s gender identity is that student himself or herself,” the policy states.

Massachusetts’ State Board of Education requested the guidelines as a way to help schools follow a law passed in 2011 that protects transgender students from discrimination.

Parents and family groups were critical of the new policy, saying it would violate the privacy rights of certain students and creates overly broad standards that are ripe for abuse.

“Fundamentally, boys need to be using the boys’ room 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 Massachusetts Family Institute.

“The policy allows students to have one gender identity at home and another at school. And it refuses to let teachers and administrators tell parents what gender their child is at school.”

Some parents are also concerned that certain students may feel uncomfortable having someone of the opposite sex inside their locker room or bathroom. The policy says a particular student’s discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition praised the new policy, saying that punishing students who refuse to acknowledge another’s gender is appropriate because it’s a form of bullying.

Beckwith believes the goal of the policy is to create gender-neutral schools.

“They’re encouraging schools to eliminate all gender-based distinctions,” he said.

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