LA School Board President: Gender Neutral Bathrooms for All Middle and High Schools

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Los Angeles Unified School District officials threw their support behind Obama administration guidance released today that spells out the responsibilities of schools to prevent discrimination against transgender students.

The letter, issued jointly by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice, states that transgender students are protected under Title IX, which prohibits K-12 districts, colleges and universities that receive federal dollars from discriminating against students based on sex.

“We applaud President Obama’s guidance that public school districts allow transgender students to attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex,” LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said in a statement.

“As the second-largest school district in the country, L.A. Unified has long been a leader in respecting the needs of all students and staff,” she said.

King said the guidance is “yet another opportunity to help our students develop the values to contribute to an ever-changing society” and LAUSD “remains committed to providing a safe learning environment for everyone, including transgender students, and ensuring that the entire L.A. Unified family has equal access to our educational programs and activities.”

Steve Zimmer, president of the LAUSD Board of Education, told KNX Newsradio that he hopes to begin the next school year with at least one gender- neutral bathroom at every middle and high school. He said the change would not be costly, since most schools have restrooms that can be easily adjusted.

“This is not a huge, overwhelming burden or expense, and any expense that we incur is absolutely worth it for the human rights and dignity of our kids,” Zimmer told the station.

The guidance letter states that schools must treat students according to the gender they identify with, upon being notified of the student’s transgender status. This includes allowing students to take part in sex- segregated activities or use bathrooms and other facilities that match the student’s chosen gender identity.

Schools are also obligated to respond quickly and effectively when dealing with harassment against transgender students, and to protect the privacy of students on issues related to their transgender status.

Steve Zimmer, president of the LAUSD Board of Education, told KNX Newsradio that he hopes to begin the next school year with at least one gender- neutral bathroom at every middle and high school. He said the change would not be costly, since most schools have restrooms that can be easily adjusted.

“This is not a huge, overwhelming burden or expense, and any expense that we incur is absolutely worth it for the human rights and dignity of our kids,” Zimmer told the station.

“Our students have taken the dignity and humanness of all of their peers very seriously,” Zimmer said. “And when we talk about gender-inclusive or gender-neutral restrooms, this is specifically so nobody has to identify and that all students are comfortable taking care of the needs that they have so they can focus on their academic achievement.”

In April, students clashed with protesters at LAUSD’s Santee Education Complex in South Los Angeles who rallied outside the campus to protest the recent opening of a gender-neutral bathroom on the campus.

The school that month dedicated a 15-stall gender-neutral bathroom, making it the first Los Angeles-area school to have such a facility. The bathroom was the result of a campaign by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, which collected hundreds of petition signatures in support of the idea.