As 2017 comes to an end, those of us in the special education arena are already looking ahead to 2018. Next year, it is expected that the Commissioner of Education will issue guidelines related to transgender students. Earlier this year, Governor Christie signed legislation that requires the Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students. These guidelines are expected sometime in 2018 and are intended to provide school districts with direction in addressing the needs of transgender students. The guidelines are also intended to assist schools in developing their own policies and procedures for transgender students.
The guidelines are required to include information and guidance regarding:
Definitions of terms relevant to an understanding of transgender issues;
Maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment;
Confidentiality and privacy concerns regarding a student’s transgender or transitioning status;
Procedures for the maintenance of official school records;
Use of the name and pronoun that corresponds to a student’s gender identity;
Issuance of school documentation such as student ID’s in the name that corresponds to a student’s gender identity, and permitting transgender students to dress in accordance with their gender identity;
Equal opportunities for participation in physical education;
Participation in gender-segregated school activities in accordance with a student’s gender identity;
The use of restrooms and locker rooms;
Ensuring that school counselors are knowledgeable regarding issues and concerns relevant to transgender students;
Permitting and supporting the formation of student clubs or programs regarding issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth; and
Information on organizations or other resources available to students and parents that provide support to transgender individuals.
The legislation also requires the Commissioner to provide school districts with guidance and resources for professional development for teachers, administration, guidance counselors, bus drivers, coaches and other school staff regarding issues and concerns relevant to LGBTQ students and on making other developmentally appropriate information about LGBTQ issues available to schools for inclusion in school libraries, guidance offices and nurse’s offices.
The Special Education Legal Team at McDowell, Posternock, Apell and Detrick will keep watch for the expected guidelines and will continue to keep you up to date on this and other issues of importance to the Special Education community. Contact us today if you have any questions.