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Federal Guidance to Keep Transgender Youth Safe in Schools Rescinded

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Today, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice rescinded their joint Title IX Guidance and Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students, documents rooted in legal precedent that outlined a public school’s responsibility to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The guidance was an important tool in providing equal access to education for transgender students across the country and a preventative measure to keep transgender youth from experiencing homelessness.

“Our schools need to be safe spaces that provide all students a place to learn and thrive – and that must include transgender students. In fact, we know that when schools are inclusive and welcoming environments for transgender youth, we can prevent homelessness for this vulnerable population,” said Gregory Lewis, Executive Director & CEO of the True Colors Fund. “A significantly disproportionate rate of transgender youth experience homelessness in great part because they do not feel safe at school, as well as at home and in their community.”

In America, up to 6.8% of homeless youth identify as transgender, yet 0.7% of the general youth population are transgender. This disparity is rooted primarily in transgender youth being rejected by their families and communities, including their schools. Through the True Colors Fund’s 2015 Serving our Youth report, homeless youth service providers convey that 20% of transgender youth they serve have left high school before completion. This figure is alarming, especially compared to the national dropout rate of 6.5% for all youth. Bullying and policies that do not protect youth are major barriers for school completion. “Equal access to education for all – especially our most vulnerable youth – must be the benchmark from which we measure our success as a society,” concluded Gregory Lewis.

Though the revocation of the Title IX Guidance is a setback, it is vital that transgender youth know that protections are still in place. The guidance itself did not change the law or create protections for transgender students that were not there before, but instead clarified how the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice would enforce existing laws and provided clear guidelines towards ensuring transgender students enjoyed a supportive and inclusive school environment. Even though the guidance has been withdrawn, it does not change the fact that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, transgender students have a right to be treated according to their gender identity, including when it comes to restroom access. Additionally, comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender Americans are on the books in 18 states and more than 200 cities.

Moving forward, the True Colors Fund will work in coalition with its partners to call attention to the needs of LGBT youth, work with states and cities as they create their own plans to end LGBT youth homelessness, and continue our long-standing advocacy with the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice on the crucial role that guidance like this plays in achieving equal access to education for all youth.

Three ways you can join us in our advocacy and get involved:

  1. Contact the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) hotline and explain why equal access to education for all youth – including transgender youth – is essential. OCR Hotline: 800-421-3481
  2. Call the White House to share your concerns about revocation of the Title IX guidance and explain why it is detrimental to equal access to education for transgender youth: White House Switchboard: 202-456-1414
  3. Make a donation to support the True Colors Fund’s work to ensure that all youth experiencing homelessness have access to the services they need – and that they can be their true selves when they get there.
Follow Justin Rush, JD:

Director of Public Policy

Justin leads the True Colors Fund's work to enact administrative and legislative policy change to prevent and end LGBT youth homelessness.