New Legislation to Protect Transgender Students

It is estimated that there are approximately 14,000 transgender students in New Jersey’s K-12 schools across every county in the state. In July 2017, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that promotes equality and inclusion towards transgender students in New Jersey Schools. This new law will enhance the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (LAD) prohibition against discrimination of transgender students based on gender identity and expression in New Jersey Schools.

The legislation mandates that the Commissioner of Education create a roadmap and guidelines for school districts to effectively address issues concerning the unique needs of transgender students by early 2018.  The guidelines must provide direction and information on the following:

  • Definitions of terms relevant to understanding transgender issues (i.e., gender identity, gender expression, gender non-conforming)
  • How to maintain a safe, harassment and discrimination free learning environment
  • Addressing confidentiality and privacy concerns regarding a student’s transgender or transitioning status
  • Adopting procedures to maintain separate, official school records that reflect a legal name change in name or gender
  • Ensuring that the transgender student is addressed at school using the name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity – regardless if a legal name change or change in official school records has occurred
  • Issuing school documentation and identification that corresponds to a student’s gender identity
  • Permitting transgender students to dress in accordance with their gender identity
  • Providing equal opportunities for transgender students to participate in physical education and sports
  • Allowing transgender students to participate in gender-segregated school activities that correspond with a student’s gender identity
  • Allowing transgender students to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity and providing reasonable alternative arrangements if needed to ensure the student’s safety
  • Providing education to school counselors so they are knowledgeable on the issues and concerns relevant to transgender students
  • Allowing and supporting the creation of student clubs or programs regarding issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth (LGBTQ)
  • Offering resources to students and parents that provide support for transgender individuals

The law also mandates that schools provide "reasonable alternative arrangements if needed to ensure a student's safety and comfort." The law hopes to ensure that transgender students are treated with respect, dignity and equality in a supportive, inclusive, and non-discriminatory culture and environment. Many are hopeful that if transgender students are treated well, their occurrence of anxiety, depression, and suicide will be more consistent with those of non-transgender students. The law, like many other anti-discrimination laws, will hopefully end the “cancer of discrimination.”

For additional information, visit:  http://www.nj.gov/dcf/adolescent/lgbtqi/

Many of these important guidelines can be modeled for businesses as well.  If you have questions, or you need help with policies, procedures or training for your school, organization or business, please contact Nicole S. Croddick at DEMLP.

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