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Scholars Criticize Report on Transgender Students

Several states have gotten high marks on school policies that work with students and gender identity.  (CDC)
Several states have gotten high marks on school policies that work with students and gender identity. (CDC)
May 8, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- A report on transgender student policies in American schools by a conservative think tank is being taken to task by experts.

The report from the Heritage Foundation, called "Gender Identity Policies in Schools: What Congress, the Courts and Trump Administration Should Do," came out in March. Robert Kim, a research fellow at Rutgers University, has put together a rebuttal.

He said the report claims to give guidance on how states and school districts can resolve issues surrounding transgender students. But he said in reality, it only advises the federal government to stay out of the issue.

"The absence of clear federal guidance now means that thousands of students in states or districts that are not supportive of the goal of keeping transgender students safe and well-integrated will have to rely on other means to seek redress for what's happening to them,” Kim said.

The report said the Obama administration tried to force a one-size-fits-all policy on the entire nation rather than allowing parents, teachers and local schools to find solutions. Kim said schools need policies to keep transgender students safe, and also to foster a climate that encourages acceptance. He criticized the Heritage report for failing to address those topics.

Kim said schools need to know how to refer to transgender students, how to deal with the name and gender changes in official school records, and how to create policies that make students feel comfortable in school restrooms, locker rooms, and when participating in sports and overnight field trips.

He said there have been some positive changes made in states such as California, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

"States and districts have done a lot around the country,” Kim said. “And that is good news because those districts and state policies are going to provide the guidance needed in the future for other states and districts to follow."

He said students who aren't in districts that correctly deal with gender identity issues may resort to filing lawsuits. But, he observed, not every family can afford to take that route.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN