We are proud to launch the Dignity for All project today, as an online resource for school districts in supporting transgender students. We have additionally released a model policy for supporting transgender and gender expansive students in Pennsylvania. The model policy is being sent this afternoon to the fifty largest school districts in the commonwealth for their consideration to adopt. The resource and model policy can be accessed at http://dignityforall.payouthcongress.org.
One week ago, the United States’ Department of Education and Department of Justice released landmark guidance, clarifying federal protections for transgender students through Title IX. Pennsylvania does not have a statewide gender identity-inclusive non-discrimination law, and only 34 municipalities have local LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. Most recently, Ambler Borough Council unanimously adopted an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance on Tuesday, May 17.
The Dignity for All project aims to provide clear information for Pennsylvania school district administrators and board members with the latest information on their responsibilities to support transgender and gender expansive students. The resource includes information on existing state and federal policy, as well as a listing of trainers that provide education on transgender students and building safer school climates for all.
We have been supporting local advocacy efforts for transgender students since its founding in 2011. PYC has partnered with school district leaders in crafting basic non-discrimination protections for transgender students, from Pittsburgh to New Hope. We are producing a forthcoming report on LGBT-inclusive policies across Pennsylvania, which indicates only a handful of districts currently include gender identity and expression as a protected class. We has been helping lead efforts toward the adoption of comprehensive transgender student policies since 2013 in a number of districts throughout the commonwealth.
As of today, at least five Pennsylvania school districts have enacted a comprehensive transgender student policy – which include (along with their adoption date): Great Valley (4/18/16), Springfield Township (4/19/16), Upper Dublin (5/9/16), Cheltenham (5/10/16), and Lower Merion (5/16/16). All of these policies were unanimously adopted by their school boards. These districts are all located in Montgomery and Chester Counties, outside of Philadelphia.
The Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Pine-Richland school boards are expected to adopt policies this summer. In reviewing over two dozen news media reports on the federal guidelines issued last week, PYC identified nearly 40 Superintendents and district spokespeople who said they would be following the guidance – and several explicitly shared their interest in adopting a policy.
With the historic federal guidelines now released, we are proud to publicly share our model policy for school districts to consider for adoption. It incorporates critical features from policies already enacted in the commonwealth toward the goal of ensuring a safe and full access to an education regardless of a student’s gender.
Many school districts have been supporting transgender students in practice for years. Now it is time to root institutional commitments for gender inclusion into policy, to clarify how schools are accessible and welcoming for all.
As an organization, PYC commends the federal agencies for release their guidelines supporting transgender students. Additionally, we call upon the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, among other stakeholders, to work together in supporting transgender and gender expansive students.
If you are interested in advocating for a transgender student policy in your local school district, please visit the Dignity for All website for more information, or contact us by email with any questions you may have.