Equality Illinois Condemns Federal Action Overturning Transgender Youth Protections
February 22, 2017
CHICAGO–On behalf of the 53,645 stakeholders of Equality Illinois in Illinois, their resident friends and families and all who care deeply about issues of equality and fairness, Equality Illinois condemns the decision of the Trump administration to tear up the 2016 federal guidance protecting the civil rights and equal treatment of transgender youth in our public schools.
“We are outraged the Trump Administration would choose to target transgender children for discrimination. Rescinding the guidance letter sends a terrible message and invites personal bias to flourish in our public schools,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.
Equality Illinois reminds Illinois school districts that they should not feel free to adopt discriminatory policies despite the federal action. Title IX of the federal education law still protects transgender students, as most courts have agreed, and Illinois law prohibits discrimination in public places.
The state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization also calls on the Illinois congressional delegation to stand up for transgender youth in Illinois and America by telling Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to follow the spirit of federal law and affirm the dignity of all students in our educational system, including transgender youth.
“Illinois schools have a legal and a moral duty to support all students, including transgender students,” Johnson said. “The Trump Administration’s action is inconsistent with the Land of Lincoln’s shared values of inclusivity, equality, and fairness. We are better than the discrimination and bias that will be visited on transgender students by the federal action.”
Johnson said that Illinois protections for LGBTQ people include the Human Rights Act against discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing, the anti-bullying statute, and the ban on conversion therapy.
“The new federal policy sends the harmful and mean-spirited message to transgender students that they are not respected and valued in their schools, the very spaces where they should be safe and affirmed. School should be a place for learning and growing, not fear and being ostracized,” Johnson said.
Transgender youth are more vulnerable to harassment and assault than their peers. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 77% of students who are or perceived to be transgender report being mistreated in K-12 schools. That includes verbal harassment, harsher discipline than their peers, physical violence, and sexual assault. In fact, 17% of those in the survey reported such mistreatment that they left their K-12 school. That’s wrong and a problem the guidance letter strove to correct.
Further, we know it is critical to the mental and physical health of transgender people that they be able to live according to their gender identity. Just last year, medical and mental health professionals dedicated to serving the best interests of all youth released a letter to the nation’s governors regarding the dangers of anti-transgender student legislation. The signatories included the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American School Counselor Association, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association.
This is also a matter of affirming the civil rights of transgender students. Last July, 86 national civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, MALDEF, NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, and National Women’s Law Center, sent a letter to then-Secretary of Education John King in support of the old policy.