The city’s Department of Education issued updated guidelines this week for how schools can help foster an inclusive environment for transgender and gender nonconforming students.
The guidelines, posted to the DOE’s website on Wednesday, cover everything from assisting with a student’s transition to listing resources for parents and schools.
And for the first time, the guidelines are expanding pronouns to include “they” and “them” rather than just “her” or “him,” and specifically recognizing gender nonconforming students.
“We are really shifting the language in the guidelines. It was not something that we were talking about three years ago. We were really ahead of the curve but since then have learned a lot,” Jared Fox, the DOE’s LGBT community liaison, said on Thursday. “Small tweaks like that add up to a really big change.”
The guidelines went from two pages to 10. The change has been in the works for months, ever since Fox took his position in January 2016, meeting with school staff, parents, students, elected officials and community groups.
“The guidelines are really an answer to what they’ve said they needed,” he said, adding: “My first task in this role was to listen.”
He said the agency started working on the revisions around March or April of last year.
“This is the kind of melding together of all that we heard in these revisions; and it was quite a bit,” Fox said. “It’s not just longer, it’s that these guidelines are stronger and clearer.”
The updated guidelines follow assurances from city officials last month that New York students will be able to use whichever bathroom corresponds with their chosen genders, as the federal government withdrew its bathroom guidelines for transgender students.
The federal guidance was first set by former President Barack Obama in May 2016 and allowed students to choose which restroom they wanted to use based on their chosen gender identities. After it was overturned, city officials said the DOE has had its own guidelines in place since 2014.
“We are dedicated to ensuring every student is provided with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment in all school buildings, and that includes allowing students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement last month.
In a separate effort, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined other cities on Thursday to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a transgender student in Virginia challenging the Gloucester County School Board’s policy requiring students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender at birth.
“Every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in their school, regardless of their gender identity. Access to bathrooms and other essential facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to anyone,” de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City has long been a leader in the fight for LGBTQ equality, and we are proud to stand with transgender and gender nonconforming people across the country in the fight against discrimination.”