17 School Districts Debunk Right-Wing Lies About Protections For Transgender Students

The collective experience of 17 U.S. school districts has shattered the right-wing myth that says prohibiting discrimination against transgender students causes confusion and inappropriate behavior. Years after implementing their own anti-discrimination policies, none of the schools have experienced any problems.

Media Outlets Have Promoted Myths About The Effect Of Non-Discrimination Protections For Transgender Students

Several States Have Adopted Non-Discrimination Laws To Protect Transgender Students. States across the country have adopted laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools. [National Center for Transgender Equality, 1/30/15]

[GLSEN, accessed 6/3/15]

U.S. Department of Education Issued Guidelines In 2014 Urging Schools To Protect Transgender Students From Discrimination. On April 29, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education released a guidance document clarifying that the Title IX prohibition against sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs covers discrimination based on gender identity or expression. According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network:

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education today issued official guidance which makes clear that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Specifically, the guidance states that “Title IX's sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.” [GLSEN, 4/29/15]

Conservative Media Promote Bogus Myths About Policies Protecting Transgender Students. Conservative media outlets have attacked transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policies in schools by claiming they create confusion, violate students' privacy rights, and can be exploited by students who will pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into the restrooms for the opposite sex and behave inappropriately. [Media Matters2/27/138/9/138/14/138/22/1310/15/132/14/146/9/14]

Seventeen School Districts Covering 600,000 Students Experienced No Problems After Implementing Transgender Protections

Media Matters Contacted Officials At The Largest School Districts In 12 States With Gender Identity Protections On The Books. Media Matters contacted school district officials in states with laws prohibiting discrimination in public schools on the basis of gender identity and asked whether they had experienced “any incidences of harassment or inappropriate behavior” as a result of “allowing transgender students to access facilities they're comfortable with.” Media Matters specifically raised the oft-heard criticism that protecting transgender students will “result in confusion, harassment, or inappropriate behavior” such as “students pretending to be transgender to sneak into locker rooms or bathrooms.”


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2014. On January 1, 2014, California's School Success and Opportunity Act went into effect, prohibiting discrimination against transgender students and requiring public schools to allow trans students to have access to facilities and extracurricular activities that correspond to their gender identity. [Transgender Law Center, accessed 5/29/15]

Six California School Districts Reported No Incidences Of Harassment Or Inappropriate Behavior. One month after California's law went into place, Media Matters contacted officials at the largest school districts in California to determine whether the right-wing horror stories about transgender students had come true. None of the six school districts reported incidents of harassment or inappropriate behavior, and several pledged to continue accommodating transgender students even if the law were to be repealed in a referendum. [Media Matters2/11/14]

School Districts Had Similar Policies In Place For Years, Without Incident. Several California school districts had policies to protect transgender students long before the 2014 law came into effect, and none had any problems. The Los Angeles School District, which educates more than one in 10 of all the students enrolled in California public schools, had protections in place for nearly a decade before the law, and recorded no incidents of inappropriate behavior as a result. [Media Matters2/11/14]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2008. In 2008, Colorado expanded its Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, including schools, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.  [The Denver Post5/29/08]

Non-Discrimination Policy Includes Public School Restroom Access. In 2009, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission clarified that public schools should allow transgender students to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. [Colorado Civil Rights Commission, December 2009]

Jefferson County Schools: “Not Aware” Of Any Concerns Over Transgender Bathroom Access. Lisa Pinto, spokesperson for Jefferson County Schools, told Media Matters that she was unaware of any issues surrounding transgender students being allowed to use the bathrooms of their choice:

Our District seeks to foster an educational environment that is safe and free from all discrimination for all students.  We are very aware of, and participating in, the discussion regarding transgender students using the bathroom of their choice.  Additionally, we are currently updating our annual training materials to discuss this matter.  We will continue to be involved in these discussions with both our internal population as well as external subject matter experts and updating our training materials appropriately.

To address your specific question, we are not aware of any a transgender student or any student raising a concern about bathroom use at our schools. [Email exchange, 5/21/15]

Jefferson County Schools Is Colorado's Second Largest School District With 86,547 Students. [Colorado Department of Education, 2014]

Denver Public Schools: No Incidences Of Harassment Or Confusion. Doug Schepman, media relations manager for Denver Public Schools, reported no incidences of confusion, harassment, or inappropriate behavior as a result of the school's non-discrimination policy.

We are not aware of any such incidences in Denver Public Schools. [Email exchange, 5/20/15]

Denver Public Schools Is Colorado's Largest School District With 88,839 Students. [Colorado Department of Education, 2014]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2011. In 2011, Connecticut added gender identity or expression to its anti-discrimination laws, including discrimination in education, with Public Act 11-55, “An Act Concerning Discrimination.” [GLAD, 10/12]

Bridgeport Public Schools: No “Inappropriate Incidences.” Fran Rabinowitz, superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools, reported that the district had not experienced any incidents as a result of accommodating trans students:

Bridgeport is proud to accommodate all students. We are happy to report that we have not experienced any inappropriate incidents resulting from accommodations for trans-gender students. [Email exchange, 6/2/15]   

Bridgeport Public Schools Is Connecticut's Third Largest School District With 20,126 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2006. In 2006, Illinois amended its Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, including schools, on the basis of sexual orientation or “gender-related identity.” [Jackson Lewis, 2/8/05]

Elgin Area School District: No Instances Of Harassment Or Inappropriate Behavior. Tony Sanders, interim superintendent of School District U-46 (also known as Elgin Area School District), stated that he has never heard of any issues related to trans students accessing the facility that aligned with their gender identity:

In my eight years in School District U-46, I am not aware of instances of harassment or inappropriate behavior related to transgender students accessing facilities of their choice. [Email exchange, 5/21/15]

Elgin Area School District Is Illinois' Second Largest School District With 40,687 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202: “No Issues” As A Result Of Allowing Trans Students To Access Facilities. Tom Hernandez, director of community relations and Freedom of Information Act officer, reported that the district had worked with several trans students, and had no issues with allowing these students to access facilities aligned with their gender identity:

Yes, we have had students for several years who have identified themselves as the opposite gender, and we have taken steps to ensure their comfort in terms of providing access to appropriate facilities. No, we have not had any issues allowing transgender students to access facilities they are comfortable with. [Email exchange, 6/1/15]

Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 Is Illinois' Fourth Largest School District With 28,904 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2007. In 2007, Iowa amended its Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education. [Iowa Civil Rights Commission, 2007]  

Des Moines Public Schools: “No Examples” Of Harassment Or Inappropriate Behavior. Phil Roeder, director of communications and public affairs for Des Moines Public Schools, reported no incidences of students taking advantage of the district's trans-inclusive policies:

When it comes to transgender students and our school district's practice of making sure we serve students according to their individual gender identity, we have had no reported incidents of any student abusing our policies or taking advantage of them in any way that would be inappropriate or harassing. At this time, we have no examples to support such criticism. [Email exchange, 5/20/15]

Des Moines Public Schools Is Iowa's Largest School District With 33,453 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Sioux City Community School District: No “Harassment Or Bullying.” Alison Benson, director of communications for the Sioux City Community School District, stated that there were no reports of harassment or bullying in the district as a result of allowing trans students to access facilities: 

There have not been reports of harassment or bullying due to transgendered [sic] students having access to facilities in the Sioux City Community School District. The District is committed to ensuring every student and staff member is treated with respect and dignity. We work very hard to ensure all of our students learn in a safe atmosphere. [Email exchange, 6/2/15]

Sioux City Community School District Is Iowa's Fourth Largest School District With 14,360 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Education Since 2005. In 2005, Maine passed  “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation,” which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in secular education institutions. [GLAD, 2/25/14]

Lewiston Public Schools: “No Cases Of Harassment” Reported As Result Of Policy. Lewiston Public School District Superintendent Bill Webster said that no cases of harassment had reached his office:

We are fully committed in Lewiston Public Schools to comply with Maine law and to meet the needs of our transgendered [sic] students with respect and dignity.  No cases of harassment have reached my office.  That doesn't mean that they don't exist, but, I would like to think, my administrators throughout our schools are working well with students and families on this issue.  I am aware of a couple of situations where a young student has decided to identify with with [sic] the opposite sex, change their name and patterns of dress.  The biggest issue that I am aware is helping parents with this change, particularly where the parents may have different opinion. [Email exchange, 5/21/15]

Lewiston Public Schools Is Maine's Second Largest School District With 5,115 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2012. Massachusetts has prohibited discrimination in public education since 2012, when “An Act Relative to Gender Identity” added gender identity as a protected characteristic to Massachusetts' non-discrimination law. [Massachusetts Department of Education, accessed 5/28/15]

Boston Public Schools: No Bathroom Complaints, Only Education Requests. Boston Public Schools' Chief Equity Officer Tanisha Sullivan stated that there have been no complaints about transgender students' access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity:

While there is state law and a district non-discrimination policy that protects all of our students from and against discrimination and harassment, we are most proud of our work with schools and external partners over the past two years to deepen our capacity to proactively meet the needs of our GLBT students.  To that end, we have not received specific complaints regarding bathroom access; however, over the past year our Equity Office has responded to requests from schools to help educate staff on the state law, our policy, and overall inclusion of transgender students. This led to the establishment of a working group in 2015 to review the impact that some of our district procedures have on transgender students, as well as efforts to increase training specifically related to effective engagement and inclusion of our GLBT community. [Email exchange, 5/19/15]

Boston Public Schools Is Massachusetts' Largest School District With 55,027 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Education Since 1993. Since 1993, the Minnesota Human Rights Act has prohibited discrimination in public schools on the basis of gender identity. [OutFront Minnesota, accessed 5/21/15]   

Minneapolis Public Schools: “No Reports Of Harassment Or Bullying” As A Result Of Trans-Inclusive Policy. Lynn Brun, interim communications director for Minneapolis Public Schools, stated that there have been no reports of harassment or bullying as a result of accommodations made for transgender students:

Minneapolis Public Schools is committed to providing transgender and gender non-conforming students and staff with the tools, resources, and support they need.  Over the past year and half, four schools converted bathrooms to be gender neutral: Wenonah (K-2), Folwell (K-8), Seward (K-8), and South (9-12). The implementation around the gender-neutral restrooms involved teacher and staff training around gender inclusion, along with a mix of student and family engagement such as peer education at South with students speaking to classmates about the need for a different restroom; student assemblies on bullying prevention; articles in the school newspaper; and, in some cases, parent letters went out directly to families. Accommodations for changing rooms and showers for sports and gym classes are made at the site level. School administrators and work with transgender students and their families to ensure appropriate facilities are provided to meet each student's needs.

To date, there have been no reports of harassment or bullying of transgender students or other students due to these changes. [Email exchange, 5/27/15]

Minneapolis Public Schools Is Minnesota's Third Largest School District With 35,046 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Saint Paul Public Schools: “Not Aware” Of Any Cases Of Students Pretending To Be Trans. Ryan Vernosh, interim director of communications, marketing, and development for St. Paul Public Schools, said that he was unaware of any instances of students pretending to be trans in order to sneak into bathrooms.

From my understanding from the research into developing our own district policy protecting transgender students, we haven't noticed any uptick in harassment or bullying complaints due to the Minnesota Human Rights Act. There seems to be no correlation between the Act and incidences of bullying or harassment. I am not aware of any cases of students pretending to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms or locker rooms.

Saint Paul Public School District Debunks Harassment Myth For Their District-Wide Policy. St. Paul Public School District assembled a list of “myths and facts” about its Gender Inclusion Policy - one of the myths being that “a gender inclusion policy will lead to safety issues and will violate student privacy in school facilities.” Responding to this myth, the district wrote:

There is no correlation between unsafe school environments and providing equitable access to facilities for transgender and gender non-conforming students. [Saint Paul Public Schools, accessed 6/2/15]

Saint Paul Public School District Is Minnesota's Second Largest School District With 38,310 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

New Jersey

State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2007. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination has prohibited discrimination in public education (except religious educational institutions) since being amended in 2006 to include gender identity as a protected class. [White & Case, 12/20/06]

Paterson School District: “Have Not Encountered Any Specific Issues” With Student Access To Facilities. Terry Corallo, executive director of information for Paterson School District, stated that the district had not had any issues with its transgender students as a result of the state's non-discrimination law:

We have not encountered any specific issues (in response to your facilities question), but we do have a policy - and we are sensitive to this matter.

In fact, some of our district staff members have participated in a recent training program - LGBT- Legal Rights & Discrimination of Students and Staff - presented by The Morris Union Juncture. [Email exchange, 5/27/15]

Paterson School District Is New Jersey's Third Largest School District With 24,365 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2008. Oregon has protected public school students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity since the Oregon Equality Act went into effect in 2008. [Lambda Legal, 9/19/07]

Portland Public Schools: No Harassment As A Result Of Transgender Inclusive Policy. Christine Miles, public information officer for Portland Public Schools, stated that she had heard of no incidences of harassment as a result of the state's non-discrimination policy:

We have not received or heard of any harassment to kids.  We have had some concerns from parents who are not parents of TG [sic] students. [Email exchange, 5/20/15]

Portland Public Schools Is Oregon's Largest School District With 46,930 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Salem-Keizer School District: No “Negative Consequences” As A Result Of Non-Discrimination Policy. Jay Remy, community relations and communications director for Salem-Keizer School District, dismissed concerns about protections for transgender students:

I did look into this. We cannot speak about specific individual students dealing with these issues. However, we have not had any of the negative consequences you listed in your email. We feel fortunate in that regard. [Email exchange 5/19/15]

Salem-Keizer Schools District Is Oregon's Second Largest School District With 40,756 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination in Public Schools Since 2006. In 2006, Washington State enacted the Anderson-Murray Antidiscrimination Law, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity through Washington's Law Against Discrimination. [Lambda Legal, 9/19/07]

Seattle Public Schools: “Not Had Any Incidents” Related To Non-Discrimination Law. Stacy Howard, spokesperson and media relations specialist for Seattle Public Schools, reported no incidents as a result of the state's gender identity protections. Rather, trans students in Seattle recently made headlines for other reasons:

We have not had any incidents related to this in Seattle Public Schools. One great example, some of our transgender students have made headlines recently for changing the graduation gown color to be just one, rather than one for boys and one for girls. [Email exchange, 5/18/15]

Seattle Public Schools Is Washington's Largest School District With 49,269 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Spokane Public Schools: No Instances Of Students Exploiting Non-Discrimination Protections. Ramon Alvarez, equal opportunity officer for Spokane Public Schools, had not heard any cases of students acting inappropriately as a result of the non-discrimination law, adding that all cases of transgender student bathroom use have been handled amicably:

I have not heard of any situation where a student pretended to be transgender in order to sneak into bathrooms or locker rooms. Neither are we hearing of situations where a student identifies as transgender than later changes their mind. Any questions that have come up around bathroom use for transgender students have been handled amicably. [Email exchange, 5/18/15]

Spokane Public Schools Is Washington's Second Largest School District With 29,038 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]


State Law Has Prohibited Discrimination In Public Schools Since 2007. In 2007, Vermont outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender identity with Public Act 41, “An Act Relating to Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity.” [GLAD, accessed 5/21/15

Burlington School District: No “Misbehavior” As A Result Of Trans-Inclusive Policies. Burlington School District Interim Superintendent Howard Smith stated that the district had not experienced “misbehavior” as a result of its transgender non-discrimination policy:

Before the 2007 protections were enacted in Vermont, Burlington School District was already establishing protections for all students. Since the protections were enacted, the Burlington School District has implemented district-wide bullying and harassment protocols. In each of our schools we have two or more trained Designated Employees (DEs) who are responsible for investigating all complaints of alleged bullying/harassment. Any bullying and/or harassment complaints of a federal or state protected category, such as race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, (and the district has also included gender expression), will be investigated. The Burlington School District has hired an Equity Director to ensure staff are trained in order to appropriately respond to bullying and harassment. Although BSD has not experienced misbehavior of any student claiming to be transgender as an attempt to gain access to certain facilities, we do offer gender neutral facilities for students and staff. [Email exchange, 5/21/15]

Burlington School District Is Vermont's Largest School District With 3,958 Students. [Niche, accessed 6/2/15]

Video created by John Kerr.

This post originally stated that Denver Public Schools was the second largest school district in Colorado. It is the actually the largest school district in the state. The post has been updated.