You have lots of say in your local school district. (Image Credit: Unsplash/JJ Thompson)
Earlier this week, the Trump administration decided that the most pressing issue on their plates is where school children pee. The Departments of Education and Justice sent memos to the Supreme Court notifying them that they would be ordering schools to hereby ignore guidance from the Obama administration on the rights of trans and gender non-confirming kids in schools. Specifically, schools are no longer required to let kids use the bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to the student’s gender identity.
Because, apparently, that’s what they meant by making America great again: making school more uncomfortable for trans kids.
The good(ish) news is Trump and pals have simply rescinded the Obama orders on the matter. They have not established a new policy that runs contrary to what Obama and the LGBTQ community wanted to happen. Basically, what happened here is that Obama tried to build a single, big, trans-friendly sandcastle. Trump came in and kicked the sandcastle down. However, he hasn't yet built anything new in its place.
Now, we have the opportunity to come in and build lots of little trans-friendly sandcastles on our own little beachheads. Ideally, if we build enough of them, no one will be able to come in and kick them all down.
Here’s what we all need to do. First, find out what the gender identity policy is for your local school district. I found mine with a quick Google search, but if it isn’t that easy, give the Board of Education offices a call. Or even call the nearest school and ask them for it. Once you have that in hand, compare it to some best-practices documents developed by advocates for trans rights. Here’s a super long and detailed one developed by Gender Spectrum, NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights), in coalition with HRC Foundation's welcoming schools work, and the NEA (National Education Association). Also, check out the site Welcoming Families.
It’s entirely possible that your district, or even your whole county or state, already has policy that adequately addresses the needs of trans kids. That’s great! Thank the school board for their work and let other families know what the guidelines are so that the information spreads throughout the community. That way, everyone can look out for each other’s kids by defending their rights in school.
If your district is falling short, well, time for some good old-fashioned advocacy. You don’t need to start from scratch. Connect with groups like PFLAG or Gender Spectrum or National Center for Transgender Equality and find out what they’re doing in your area. Get on board and help them out. Even if you aren’t the parent or friend of a trans kid, you have a role to play. Standing together with trans kids and their families is our responsibility as allies, and it gives the LGBTQ community more strength in more numbers.
Initiating change in school policies will take time and effort. We’ll need petition drives, calls to school boards, community meetings with education leaders, postcard campaigns, and even just chatting with other parents at PTA meetings and school events to build awareness and support for policies that benefit trans kids.
Be prepared to ask and ask again for your schools to handle this issue. Be the squeaky wheel. Ask for grease.
We can all step up for the human rights of trans kids in schools. It’s easy to do, and I promise that we will be effective sooner or later. It might take a while, but remember what we said about persistence when Elizabeth Warren was under fire for persisting?
Yeah. We can be persistent. That’s how we win.