A new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union discovered that transgender students are facing harassment in classrooms across New York State.
The report, Dignity for All? Discrimination Against Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students in New York State, found that cases of harassment pertaining to a student’s sex, gender or sexual orientation are the most common form of reported incidents of harassment in New York. In the 2012-13 school year, 24,478 incidents of harassment were reported under the Dignity for All Students Act, of which 19% dealt with gender stereotypes.
“My daughter was kicked and stepped on, and her hair was pulled, all while students shouted at her that she was a boy,” said the mother of one NYC student named Jessie. “People knock over her tray during lunch.”
Jessie is a first grader at a public school. While she has not said anything pertaining to her gender identity as of yet, she enjoys wearing parachute pants, army clothing and playing with action figures. Jessie’s mom went on to say that the bullying has been even worse this year despite attempts made to inform administration at the school of the goings-on.
The report went on to discuss how many teachers and administrators throughout the state have refused to acknowledge a students’ preferred gender identity, as well as the many students who have been banned from using the bathroom or locker room of their choosing.
“Many students avoid going to the restroom throughout the entire school day,” said Lauren Frederico, who authored the report. “They are limiting their water intake, holding it for hours, and putting their health at risk.”
While the Dignity Act of 2010 prohibits discrimination based on gender in all New York State public schools, the report pointed out that many school administrators and teachers in the state do not have proper training on the subject. In addition, these staff members typically do not respectfully address, or try to protect, these students.
State law requires a Dignity Act coordinator to be hired at each public school, who is in charge of mediating instances that involve gender-based harassment. However, a 2013 survey of New York City public schools found that only 9% of students knew who the coordinator at their school was. In addition, one-third of public schools in the state did not report such instances of harassment in that same year despite the law requiring them to do so.
Writers of the report would like to see all public school bathrooms and locker rooms be used based on gender identity. They also suggest that more effort be made by the state education department to collect data pertaining to harassment, and that students be allowed to make confidential harassment reports.