partlycloudy
Saturday May 28th, 2016 12:32PM

Schools work to help transgender students fit in

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Isaac Barnett took a bold step last year: He told teachers and classmates at his Kansas high school that the student they had known as a girl now wanted to be accepted as a boy.

His close childhood friend, who also identified as transgender, was ready to reveal his secret, too.

With the administration's blessing, a segment featuring the two friends talking about their transitions aired in the school's classrooms, alongside a basketball team promotion and a feature on the importance of the arts.

"I didn't get any questions or hate or put-downs or anything like that," said Barnett, now 18, adding that they called him Isaac immediately - a drama-free coming-out that would have been extraordinary in schools a decade ago.

With children rejecting the birth gender at younger ages and the transgender rights movement gaining momentum, schools in districts large and small, conservative and liberal, are working to help transitioning youth fit in without a fuss.

California this year became the first state with a law spelling out the transgender student rights in public schools, including the ability to use restrooms and to play on sports teams that match their expressed genders.

Another 13 states prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Dozens of districts, from Salt Lake City and Kansas City to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Decatur, Georgia, have adopted similar protections.

Parents are increasingly seeking a comfortable learning environment for their transgender children, according to Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Executive Director Michael Silverman.

His group represented the parents of a transgender Colorado grade school girl who was prevented from using the girl's restroom until state civil rights officials ruled in her favor last year.

There's "a new generation of parents who grew up in the age of the gay rights movement and are saying, `We want to do what is best for our children,'" he said.

The trend is likely to accelerate with help from the federal government.

Last month, the U.S. Education Department alerted districts in a memo on sexual violence that it would welcome civil rights complaints from transgender students under Title IX, the 1972 law that bans gender discrimination at schools.

The guidance gives families new leverage to negotiate access to locker rooms, sports teams and other kinds of accommodations covered under California's law, said Mark Blom, a National School Boards Association attorney.

He said the memo surprised him because courts have said Title IX doesn't provide protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

"It's going to create a real problem for school districts because the department has the right to go in and attempt to require the district under threat of losing federal funding to meet the standard the department articulates," Blom said.

School officials in states without anti-discrimination provisions for transgender residents already have been grappling with how to serve students whose needs conflict with traditional views about when and why boys and girls are separated.

The ACLU of Mississippi got involved last year when a high school senior who was born male but identified as a girl wanted to dress accordingly. The principal balked, saying the dress code required clothing to conform to gender.

The school board relented and stood by its decision, even after some parents and students complained, said Bear Atwood, then the state ACLU's executive director.

"For a long time they would have told you we don't have any trans kids here," Atwood said. "But as more and more kids are coming out everywhere else in the country, that is true in Mississippi as well.

"There is this sense of, `We have to start figuring out how to deal with this,'" Atwood said.

Last week, a Christian legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, asked the Louisville, Kentucky, school board to overrule a high school principal who allowed a transgender freshman to start using the girl's bathrooms.

The principal has since limited the student to one girl's restroom but said treating her like other female students adhered to the recent Title IX guidance.

"When the issue of gender identity was brought to my attention, I had to educate myself on the issue and what this means in terms of fair and just treatment of transgender people," Atherton High School Principal Thomas Aberli said.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said schools should instead give transgender students the option of using staff or unisex facilities, as many do.

"The fact that we are in a position culturally where schools are just caving to these demands is very concerning," he said.

Kim Pearson, training director of Trans Youth Family Allies, estimates that for every case that makes headlines there are dozens that are resolved quietly and easily.

Since she co-founded the support and advocacy group in 2007, Pearson has worked with parents and educators in half of the states. "If a school wants to get it, they will," Pearson said.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 1 year ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 1 week ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 1 week ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 2 weeks ago )