In a landmark move on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance that affirms previous court rulings that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education based on sex, extends to gender identity.
The guidance, from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), states: “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.”
The department issued the guidance as part of a larger document dealing with sexual violence and harassment in schools.
“This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are,” National Center for Transgender Equality Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin said in a statement. “It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so.”
Only one state, California, has passed a school anti-discrimination policy applying to transgender students. That law allows students to participate in activities and access resources based on their gender as opposed to sex assigned at birth.
“This guidance is crystal clear and leaves no room for uncertainty on the part of schools regarding their legal obligation to protect transgender students from discrimination,” ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson said in a statement “The Office for Civil Rights must now take the next step and issue comprehensive guidance on Title IX and transgender students.”
HRC’s Legal Director Sarah Warbelow added, “Every student has a fundamental right to go to school in a safe learning environment that respects who they are as a person. We thank the Department of Education for doing the right thing and standing with transgender and gender non-conforming students who deserve nothing less than a safe learning environment free of discrimination.”