The NYCLU says the state has failed to provide guidance on the law sufficient to protect the youth affected.
In public schools across New York, transgender and gender nonconforming children as young as five face relentless harassment, threats and even violence for trying to access their right to an education. And instead of supporting kids, too many schools are magnifying the problem by imposing discriminatory and even illegal policies.
--Donna Lieberman, executive director, NYCLU
When it passed the act New York allegedly became one of 18 states and DC to protected transgender students.
Because [State] guidance hasn’t been issued, it has been left up to individual schools and districts to establish policies in regard to transgender and gender non-conforming youth.
In lieu of such guidance superintendents are complaining about being susceptible to law suits and space has been left open for ongoing harrasment and bullying.
Education is the bedrock of individual achievement and societal cohesion and for any group to be systemically excluded as trans and gender non-conforming and lesbian and gay students are in many districts is extremely damaging not just to the individual but to all of us in creating risks within society.
This report underscores a critical fact—when you pass laws designed to protect youth, you then move on to the rest of the work which is making sure that that law is effectively implemented. That the promise of the law becomes reality.
--Eliza Byard, executive director, GLSEN
One of the requirements of the Dignity Act is the collection of data and annual reporting of all incidents of discrimination or harassment. Under the Dignity Act, discrimination experienced by transgender students might be reported under sex, gender or sexual orientation, since there is no single category of gender identity.
During 2012-13 NY schools reported 24,478 incidents of harassment and discrimination. These occurred in every county in the state. One fifth (19%) of the reported incidents related to a student’s perceived or actual sex, gender or sexual orientation. The only category with as many incidents was Other (55%). In 474 schools over half of the incidents of harassment, bullying, or discrimination were classified into those three categories. At 172 schools, all of them were.
And it is known that this represents an under-reporting of actual harassment, discrimination and bullying.
Further complicating any effort to quantify the extent of the harassment students who are transgender and gender nonconforming face is severe under-reporting. During the 2012–13 school year, 4,654 schools throughout New York State reported 24,478 incidents of harassment and discrimination under the Dignity Act. Approximately one-third of schools (1,346) failed to report data altogether. Moreover, students and staff are often unaware of how complaints should be reported. The Dignity Act requires every school to have at least one designated staff member who is trained to handle issues related to the law’s protected categories, including students reporting harassment or bullying related to gender (defined to include gender identity or expression) and sex. A 2013 survey of New York City high school students found that only 9 percent of students could correctly identify their Dignity Act coordinator. Anecdotal evidence collected through the NYCLU’s statewide trainings and legal assistance process also confirms that many students have never heard of the Dignity Act, and even fewer understand what it requires of schools.
In addition, transgender and gender nonconforming youth are less likely to report discrimination. GLSEN found in 2013 that the majority of students, nearly 60 percent, of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in New York schools never reported it to school staff. Among LGBT students who did report incidents to school authorities, only 32 percent said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by staff.
The New York State Department of Education says it is in the process of developing guidance on what schools can do to provide a safe atmosphere for transgender and gender non-conforming youth...which it expects to release in time for the 2015-16 school year.
The most important thing we must do is keep every student safe. The New York State Education Department Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students Guidance Document can be a tool for school administrators to use to create an inclusive school culture where transgender and gender nonconforming students are empowered to learn and to succeed.
--New York State Education Department Spokesman Dennis Tompkins
Locke's story and several others are described in the report. I invite you to learn about those individual cases.
I wanted to create a supportive school environment but I get depressed. I go through hardships for no reason at all. I just want to...be.
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