State Superintendent Reykdal: State laws will continue to protect transgender students

Friday, February 24, 2017

Below is a statement from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal on new guidance from the Education and Justice Departments concerning transgender students.

In May 2016, the federal Education and Justice Departments issued guidance on transgender students. The guidance required that schools treat students “consistent with the student’s gender identity.” On Wednesday evening, that guidance was rescinded by the Federal Education and Justice Departments.

Washington state law, though, continues to protect transgender students from discrimination in school, which includes names and pronouns, dress codes, student participation in sports and physical education, harassment, and students' use of restrooms and locker rooms. The federal guidance will not affect state law.

A brief history

In 2006, sexual orientation and gender identity were added as protected classes to the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Four years later, the Legislature passed a law (codified as Revised Code of Washington 28A.642) explicitly protecting students in Washington public schools against discrimination.

As a result of that law, OSPI in February 2012 issued formal guidelines entitled, “Prohibiting Discrimination in Washington Public Schools.” The guidelines specifically address access to restrooms and locker rooms:

On restrooms: “School districts should allow students to use the restroom that is consistent with their gender identity consistently asserted at school” (p. 30);
On locker rooms: “No student … should be required to use a locker room that conflicts with his or her gender identity” (p. 31).

School districts are required to comply with the guidelines – and have been doing so successfully for five years. The new guidance from the Education and Justice Departments states that “there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” 

In short, our state laws continue to protect our transgender students.

My job as Superintendent is to ensure every student in our state receives a high-quality education. Our state laws are explicit. We must not discriminate against our students, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Our state has a long and proud history of embracing differences, and I will not back down from that.



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