Local districts respond to federal removal of transgender student protections

SCV natives shine in academics. Courtesy photo

On Wednesday, the Trump administration withdrew federal protections that allowed transgender students at public schools to use the bathrooms and facilities matching their chosen gender identities.

California law, however, still makes allowances for students.

The guidelines were adopted by the Obama administration in May 2016 after the administration determined that Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, applied to transgender students’ rights.

Now, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret whether Title IX applies to gender identity and expression and to protect students from bullying or discrimination, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” said United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a statement.  “Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.”

DeVos said that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to protect students and investigate “all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”

In California, state law (AB 1226) rules that students, in kindergarten to 12th grade, cannot be discriminated against based on their gender or expression and that all students have the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said that, at California’s public schools, the state law will remain in place.

“All students deserve a safe and supportive school environment,” he said in a statement Wednesday.  “California students will continue to have their civil rights protected.”

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the sentiment appears to be the same at the area’s five public school districts.

“We follow state law and state law says we follow the transgender laws,” said Dave Caldwell, public information officer for the William S. Hart Union High School District.  “Whatever the state superintendent says, that’s what we do.  Whatever the state law is, that’s what we do.”

Christy Smith, president of the Newhall School District Governing Board, said the district does not have any plans to revisit its transgender student policy in light of the federal ruling.

“We revisited our board policy on that within the last couple of years and we don’t plan on revisiting it again,” she said.

Charmin Ortega, assistant to the superintendent in the Castaic Union School District, said she has not heard any word from board members on revisiting CUSD’s district policies about transgender students.

“I have not heard any discussions at this time, but the board might address that in the future,” she said.

Saugus Union School District Superintendent Joan Lucid said the district will follow the lead of the state superintendent’s office.

“Every child is entitled to a safe and secure environment and we follow the California law,” Lucid said.  “We  work with all our parents and students to ensure a high quality school experience where every child is valued and can reach their full potential.”

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