The New Paltz Central School District has taken a stand and is vowing to continue providing an accommodating environment for transgender and gender nonconforming students.
The Board of Education released a statement to the community on Thursday, March 2, following the Trump administration’s withdrawal of federal protections for transgender students in public schools. Superintendent Maria Rice, who made statements about the school district’s decision to keep safety policies in place, commented on the release.
“It talks about what we truly believe,” she said. “We will protect and defend the rights of all our students, faculty and staff with a commitment to advance our positions and policies in the direction of inclusivity.”
The transgender safety policy that was implemented by the Obama administration provided guidance to schools to protect transgender students under Title IX by allowing them to use facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their gender identity. Rice stated that New Paltz schools also change what records they can for transgender students through the Office for Civil Rights so that they will be referred to by the pronouns that reflect their gender identity.
President Donald Trump withdrew federal guidance with the claim that the federal government should not be involved in this decision making, and that it should ultimately be up to states to decide what kinds of protection they will put in place. New York State currently has state level protections for transgender students such as the Dignity for All Students Act, which was accepted in 2012 and protects transgender students from bullying and harassment.
Some believe that the decision to withdraw federal support of the transgender safety policy comes with an additional message of minimal government interference. SUNY New Paltz sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor Karl Bryant spoke about what he believes this decision will result in as well as the message it sends to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We know historically what this tends to do,” he said. “It means in this case that there’s a high likelihood there will be a sort of patchwork of approaches to accommodating transgender students based on geographic location. To have a protection in place, and to have that withdrawn as if we’ve gone back to neutrality, that’s not what’s being communicated. To me that’s a very aggressive anti-trans, anti-queer position to take.”
Bryant also speculated that the retraction of federal support may affect the ruling of a Supreme Court case involving a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, being disallowed to use the boys’ bathroom at Gloucester High School in Virginia. When the case was first agreed to be heard, federal guidance for the transgender safety policy was still in place.
On Monday, March 6 the Supreme Court announced that it will no longer hear Grimm’s case and will be sending it down to the United Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration.
Despite negative feelings toward the Trump administration’s decision, Bryant believes the New Paltz Central School District’s statement is taking an important step in the right direction.
“I think that sends a really heartening message that doesn’t just say ‘we have these things and we’re going to support you,’” he said. “It says ‘we’re going to fight for you.’”