Tucked away in a document on reducing sexual assault at school—part of an unprecedented effort by the Obama administration to address such abuse—the Department of Education included a historic guideline extending federal civil rights protections to transgender students.
Title IX—the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities—also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity, announced the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, marking a major victory in the fight to codify LGBT protections into federal law.
“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation,” reads the 46-page document. “Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations. Indeed, LGBT youth report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence. A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence.”
Though aimed at clarifying how Title IX relates to sexual violence, the guidance carries far broader implications. LGBT advocates note that transgender students will not just be explicitly protected from physical or sexual abuse under Title IX, but from all forms of discrimination in education.
“It certainly would be our view that transgender students should be given the ability to participate in sex segregated activities, like sports teams, consistent with their gender identity,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative at the American Civil Liberties Union on MSNBC. “Failure on part of the school to allow that would be discrimination against that student.”