Study finds schools don’t have policy protections for transgender students

Monitor staff
Published: 12/9/2020 5:14:46 PM

Most Granite State schools don’t have policy protections in place for transgender students, leaving them alone to “advocate for themselves,” according to a new report by the ACLU of New Hampshire.

The 37-page report, which was released Wednesday, shows 66% of New Hampshire public school students attend a school without comprehensive protections for students who are transgender or gender nonconforming.

In the report, titled “The Case for Lived Equality in the Classroom,” the New Hampshire chapter of GLSEN, an LGBTQ rights organization, estimates that half of trans students in New Hampshire still face some kind of discrimination at school. Without official policies in place, the report says, these students are at heightened risk for harassment.

“Without policies in place in every New Hampshire school district, transgender and gender nonconforming students are left to advocate for themselves as they seek respect and understanding throughout the school day,” said Palana Belken, policy advocate and author of the report. “Talking to trans high school students in New Hampshire is heartbreaking. The discrimination they face on a daily basis and the lengths they go to in order to avoid harassment are unacceptable.”

The list of school districts that do not have these nondiscrimination protections in place includes Concord, Bow and Pembroke, among others, according to the report. The Concord School Board’s Communications and Policy Committee is currently working on a transgender student policy, with the help of the district’s safety compliance officer, Karen Fischer-Anderson.

In 2015, a model policy called JBAB was issued by the New Hampshire School Boards Association. So far, 48 school districts or charter schools have adopted it, or a similar policy.

In 2019, New Hampshire enacted nondiscrimination legislation for transgender people that included, among other provisions, calling for a universal set of nondiscrimination protections for students at New Hampshire public schools, including advice that each school district and public charter schools should develop policies that address and prevent discrimination.

The report includes a recommendation that the New Hampshire Department of Education allow for preferred names and a third, nonbinary gender marker in its data collection system, and on the cover sheet of student Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

“It is critical that New Hampshire schools provide comprehensive protections for transgender students, which are fundamental to making clear that trans students are worthy of a full and social life,” said ACLU-New Hampshire Executive Director Devon Chaffee. “We call on all school districts that haven’t yet implemented comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for transgender students to do so expeditiously, because these students’ lives are being affected every day they attend school without them.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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