updated 05-11-2016

Education

Policies and Best Practices

MTPC, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth, and other partner organizations look forward to collaborating with school administrators, superintendents, and DESE on implementing DESE’s guidance and MTPC’s best practice recommendations in all Massachusetts school districts.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued guidance related resources that can help school districts and communities build safe and healthy learning environments for all students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students.

These recommendations were prepared by the MTPC Policy Committee and reflect the best education practice models used in other school systems or districts in the United States; existing laws, policies, and regulations for school systems in other states; policy recommendations devised by transgender and LGBT think tanks; and education policy specialists.

Experiences of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth

Transgender and gender non-conforming youth continue to experience overwhelming amounts of harassment and discrimination in schools across the Commonwealth and throughout the nation. The 2007 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 87% of transgender students had been verbally harassed in the previous year because of their gender expression, and more than a quarter had been physically assaulted. More than than half of those who were victimized did not report the events to school authorities.

Negative educational effects of these traumatic experiences included almost half of students skipping school at least once in the previous month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, GPAs dropping to an average of 2.5, and, as also noted in other studies, many becoming at risk for developing depression and suicidal tendencies.

Laws

The evidence is overwhelming that transgender and gender non-conforming youth need active school support and protection for their physical, mental, and educational well-being. MTPC applauds the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Deval Patrick for the 2011 passage and enactment of An Act Relative to Gender Identity, which requires non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the areas of education, employment, housing, and credit/lending.

In addition, Massachusetts Superior and Appeals Courts ruled in October 2000 and February 2001, respectively, that Massachusetts schools may not prohibit transgender students from expressing their gender identities and are afforded the same protections and rights under the law as other students.

Under the law, schools must address allegations of bullying and harassment promptly. Forms of harassment include: asking inappropriate personal questions about the student’s body, including whether the child has had surgical procedures; disclosing to other students, faculty, staff or administrators that the student is transgender; posting offensive pictures or sending offensive electronic or other communications related to the student, including telephone, internet, and text-messaging harassment; and making derogatory remarks, jokes, insults, or epithets.

Bullying is prohibited on school grounds and property immediately adjacent to school grounds; at school-sponsored or school-related activities, functions, or programs; at a school bus stop and on a school bus; and through technology such as the Internet and text messaging.

Other Resources

Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

GLAD’s Know Your Rights Students & Schools

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)