In the Aftermath of Trump Rescinding Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students, Teachers and Administrators Must Step Up

As an educator, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing students advocate for themselves and for their peers. Last year Santee Education Complex made national headlines for moving towards all-gender restrooms and being the the first school in the Los Angeles Unified School District to fearlessly advocate and succeed in this endeavor. The Gay Straight Alliance, a student-led group at Santee, campaigned, led a petition, and met with numerous stakeholders to advocate for students of different genders to use the same bathroom at the same time as they hoped to create awareness of the fact that more people were considering gender not to be binary. The students felt that was important to allow for everyone to feel like they can simply use the restroom without fearing exclusion and judgment. In light of the attention Santee was receiving, students who were directly impacted by this shift spoke out.

One example of students owning the bathroom issue was Alonzo, a student who had transitioned from female to male the fall prior to the change in policy. Students had known him as a girl and thus created a discomfort for him when attempting to use the male restroom, which caused him to sometimes avoid using the restroom all day. For him, the ability to use the restroom without being questioned about his gender was necessary.

Alonzo’s story is just one of many students who are simply seeking to feel comfortable in a space that they spent much of their day in: school. Santee’s advocacy work coincided with a guidance issued under President Barack Obama’s Administration mandating that any school that received federal funding should treat a student’s gender identity as his or her sex. Thus, schools would be required to allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponded to their gender identity, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s administration announced  that it will no longer bar schools from discriminating against transgender students, rescinding Obama’s guidance. According to a statement made by General Jeff Sessions, “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment…[but] the prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis…The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance.”

While this is a major step backwards in our fight towards equal rights, it does not change the law. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. This means that regardless of Obama’s guidance, the case is still the same: transgender students cannot be excluded from restrooms or otherwise denied equal educational opportunities because of who they are as that constitutes discrimination.

With this new action, the Trump administration is sending a negative message to our students and their families. Obama’s guidance outlined a school’s responsibility and thus allowed for students and parents to serve as better advocate for themselves. Without it, we are simply making school harder for many students. With this announcement, there is fear that changing policies at unsupportive school districts will create an uphill battle for many students. It will be up to local school districts and states to create their own policies to protect all students and create environments that are inclusive, safe, and respect a student’s whole being. More than ever, we must all be advocates for our students who will be the ones to suffer the aftermath of the Trump administration’s actions. Our children need us to be ready and prepared to protect them.

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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. As a student in Lynwood, Alma was very involved which developed in her a passion for community outreach and education. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to make her “4th year” of college a year of giving back by joining the national non-profit City Year. While at City Year Los Angeles, Alma built a strong network of education advocates which encouraged her to apply and join the prestigious Teach For America program. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher in Downtown Los Angeles. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in. Alma was elected to the Lynwood School Board in 2013, where she made college accessibility/readiness a main priority. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently serving her second term as Board President for the Lynwood Unified School District. She also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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