Bullying and violence in schools constitute a safety crisis, impacting the health and educational achievements of transgender and gender nonconforming youth. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey illustrates the alarming extent of the problem: 78% of respondents who were out as trans while in K-12 school indicated that they had been harassed on the basis of their gender identity, with over one-third (35%) reporting that the harassment escalated to physical assault. The abuse could be so severe that it resulted in almost one-sixth (15%) leaving school to escape. Those who are able to persevere had significantly lower GPAs, were more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and were less likely to plan on continuing their education, according to data from GLSEN2. Perhaps most alarmingly, 51% of NCTE survey respondents who had been bullied reported attempting
President Obama and other federal officials have recognized the importance of improving school climates for transgender youth, and have participated in awareness raising and inspirational projects to encourage trans students and speak out against violence in schools. In 2010, the Department of Education issued guidance to schools clarifying that bullying and discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming students may trigger federal Title IX protections. NCTE staff participated in two Obama Administration conferences on preventing bullying and gender-based violence in 2011, and in November 2011 met with Obama Administration officials to discuss strategies for ending anti-transgender violence, including bullying and peer victimization in schools.
- The President and the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services should continue to devote resources and high-level attention to the problems of bullying, harassment, and peer violence, and should include explicit discussion of transgender and gender nonconforming youth in those efforts.
- The President should endorse, and Congress should pass, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would ensure that all schools and districts implement comprehensive and effective anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that specifically include gender identity and sexual orientation.
- The President should endorse, and Congress should pass, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
- The Department of Education should issue guidance clarifying the application of Title IX anti-discrimination protections to transgender and gender nonconforming youth, including the right of transgender students to access school facilities and campus housing, and otherwise be treated in accord with their gender identity.
- The Department of Education should enhance the transparency and effectiveness of Title IX enforcement by providing transgender-inclusive training for all Title IX officers and by tracking and reporting data on LGBT-related claims.
- The National Center for Education Statistics should ensure that data collection includes detailed information about bullying, harassment, and other school violence, including whether the victim's gender identity or expression were at issue.
- The Department of Education should mandate that all states provide comprehensive suicide prevention education to all high school students. The mandate should require that the curriculum meets minimum standards, including a discussion of LGBT youth and why they have an increased risk of suicide.
- The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services should develop new cultural competence and best practice resources for schools focusing on transgender and gender nonconforming youth and preventing their victimization.
- The Department of Education should provide guidance for transgender students on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and work with schools, the Selective Service System, and the Social Security Administration to ensure that applications are not unduly delayed or rejected because of gender or documentation issues.
- Resource: Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students written with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.