Over the past two or three years, a great deal of attention has been given to transgender issues. In the United States, the transgender population includes an estimated 150,000 transgender youth. A Heritage Foundation report argues that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not require schools to protect these youth from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The report also fails to provide any insight into actual gender identity policies in schools.
Gender Identity Policies in Schools: What Congress, the Courts, and the Trump Administration Should Do was reviewed by Robert Kim, who is a William T. Grant Distinguished Fellow at Rutgers University, and who was until recently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
The report criticizes the Obama Administration’s decision to enforce Title IX to protect transgender students, and it urges the Trump Administration and courts to take a very different approach, keeping gender identity protections for these students out of federal laws. Yet while transgender youth are at the center of this report on gender identity policy, these youth somehow go wholly unexamined by the authors.
The report never acknowledges or addresses: (a) legal developments that support the argument that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination; (b) the near-consensus within the medical, scientific, and educational communities concerning how transgender students should be treated; and (c) other research and literature shedding light on the appropriate care for and education of transgender youth. The review also explains that the report erroneously asserts that transgender-inclusive policies will embolden men to enter women’s facilities to assault or abuse them.
What is entirely missing from this report – and what policymakers and educators urgently need — is guidance in an area that may be new or unfamiliar to them. Fortunately, many states and districts have adopted positive gender-identity-related laws, policies, and practices that answer questions and serve as useful guidance for other jurisdictions about how to successfully integrate transgender students in schools.
The review concludes that the Heritage report is simply not a research-based document on establishing appropriate policies related to gender identity. It is merely an advocacy document urging a more limited interpretation of a key federal civil rights law while never engaging with the issues facing transgender youth.