The Obama Administration sent a letter today to approximately 15,000 school districts, as well as to colleges and universities that receive federal funding, providing additional guidance about their responsibilities for ending harassment and bullying whenever and wherever they occur. The letter also includes concrete examples to help schools better understand and implement the law.
Importantly, the letter clarifies that gender-based harassment, including that which targets transgender students, is forbidden under Title IX of the Education Code and this applies when LGBT students are targeted based on their gender expression:
“… it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Title IX also prohibits sexual harassment and gender-based harassment of all students, regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.
“Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination.”
The letter also addresses other forms of bullying, such as harassment based on race, religion and disability.
The White House and the Department of Education held a briefing call today that included the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Russlynn Ali, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and the author of the letter released today; and Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools, to answer questions from stakeholders about the letter. In that call, the Department of Education officials specifically mentioned bullying that is based on gender identity.
The letter is just part of the Department’s work to end bullying in schools. NCTE applauds the Department for addressing gender based bullying and for recognizing the ways in which gender stereotypes are used to target children for harassment.
You can read the full text of the letter here.