A recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union says that discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming youth is pervasive in the state's public schools. During the 2012-2013 school year, there were nearly 25,000 reported incidents of harassment related to gender stereotypes and sexual orientation, according to the report, "Dignity For All? Discrimination Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Students in New York.
Discrimination against transgender youth has continued, the report says, despite the Dignity for All Act, legislation passed five years ago that was intended to protect students from bullying and harassment. It explicitly prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived gender and gender identity.
"I think the most important thing here is that we know that this kind of discrimination has a long-lasting impact," says KaeLyn Rich, director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Research shows that 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide at least once.
The incidents of harassment and bullying have continued because the State Education Department failed to provide school leadership with guidance and training on how to implement the law, the report says. Even though gender transition for most young people doesn't involve medical intervention, school administrators sometimes require some kind of medical proof of a student's gender identity, the report says.
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the SED to take immediate action to address the problems with implementing the law, and he called for a review of the matter within three weeks.
The report recommends extensive training for all school staff, especially in improving reporting, clarifying what information needs to be reported, and ensuring that every school has a confidential means for reporting discrimination.