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August 27, 2021 OCR Blog Post

Filed Under: Open Center Blog

A Back-to-School Message for America’s Transgender Students.


While back-to-school season can be a time of excitement and hope, we know that it can also cause worry for many transgender students, who may face a heightened risk of bullying and hostility. Along with getting ready to meet new teachers, start new classes, and reconnect with friends, transgender students may look to the beginning of the school year with concern—about acceptance, safety, and whether they will be treated with the basic respect and dignity they deserve. To America’s transgender students: we understand, and we are here to support you.

Last week, OCR, along with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), released a Back-to-School Video Message for Transgender Students. This address, featuring Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, and me, reaffirms the Federal government’s readiness to act to defend the rights of transgender students.

We know that for many students the pandemic has only exacerbated the hardships they faced before COVID-19. In June, OCR released “Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students,” which showed, among other things, that LGBTQI+ students often face barriers to participating fully and equally in school because of disproportionate and persistent bullying, harassment, and victimization. Yet remote learning presented additional challenges, as many LGBTQI+ students have lost access to affirming school-based services, counseling, affinity groups, and other supports important to well-being.

This school year, transgender students return to class backed by the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equality. This means that OCR and other offices throughout the Federal government are developing new resources and taking additional steps to protect the rights of transgender and other LGBTQI+ students.

We encourage you to watch our video message and review these other new resources to support transgender individuals and allies throughout the United States:

    • Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Advances Equality for Transgender Americans. The White House announced new actions to advance equality, inclusion, and opportunity for transgender Americans, including a virtual convening on transgender equality, expansion of the availability of accurate Federal IDs for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary Americans, the creation of a new White House-led Interagency Working Group on Safety, Inclusion, and Opportunity for Transgender Americans, expansion of comprehensive gender-affirming care for our Nation’s veterans, and a toolkit on transgender equality. In addition, on June 25, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce that takes new steps to ensure that the federal government is a model employer for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary employees.
    • White House Toolkit on Transgender Equality. The toolkit highlights the work done by the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to implement President Biden’s Executive Orders and support transgender individuals.
    • Dear Educator Letter on 49th Anniversary of Title IX. In June, OCR released a Dear Educator Letter detailing the Department’s work to ensure that Title IX’s mandate protects students in all aspects of their education, including treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex students.
    • Fact Sheet on Anti-LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools. OCR and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division released a fact sheet on confronting anti-LGBTQI+ harassment in schools. The fact sheet details schools’ responsibilities to investigate and address sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, against students because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Notice of Interpretation. In June, OCR issued a Notice of Interpretation explaining that we will enforce Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, consistent with the reasoning in the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County.

You can find all of these and more on OCR’s resources for LGBTQI+ students web page, including how to file a complaint with OCR.

Again, as the new school year begins, please know that OCR is committed to ensuring that all students can learn in a safe educational environment, free from harassment and discrimination.

We hope you have a great school year!

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education

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