This past Friday, the US Department of Justice issued a policy letter on transgender students and school life. The guide addresses such topics as name and pronoun use, confidentiality, harassment, participation in sports and the application of dress codes. It is implemented in all K-12 schools, preschools, colleges and universities that receive federal funding.
There was immediate opposition here in Louisiana from many of the forces that stand arrayed against equality and justice for all. Transgender youth are already at a greater risk of experiencing bullying, harassment, and even violence in schools. And statements issued by BESE President Jim Garvey and the 32 Louisiana legislators exacerbates those risks by creating a hostile environment in one of the places they should feel the safest.
We appeal to the leaders and people of Louisiana to respect the equal dignity of all people, including those apart of our transgender community.
The truth is it is already illegal for anyone to go to a bathroom to harm someone or to invade their privacy. Transgender people face hostility, harassment and bullying as a result of baseless inflammatory allegations; these barriers explain in part the extraordinarily high attempted suicide rate.
Schools should be a safe space for students to learn. Instead of ostracizing or bullying students because of their differences, we should be providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students to reach their potential. The guidance from the Department of Justice will go a long way to making sure they can.
Executive Director, Forum for Equality