Target: Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Mitchell D. Chester
Goal: Applaud Massachusetts for introducing guidelines to prevent transphobic bullying
The Massachusetts Department of Education recently introduced a new set of guidelines to help schools accommodate transgender students. The schools will be required to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender they identify with, and to have their names changed on official school documents. The regulations are being presented as part of bill that was introduced in 2011 to protect students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Department of Education states that the additional regulations are meant to decrease bullying against transgender students.
The Department of Education recommends that, in addition to allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms and lockers rooms of their choice, schools should provide gender-neutral facilities for transgender students who do not feel comfortable in either of the gender-specific bathrooms. The document states, however, that transgender students cannot be forced to use gender-neutral bathrooms based on the discomfort of other students. Instead, the Department of Education suggests addressing those problems individually to help students become more understanding of transgender individuals.
The additional guidelines were written in an effort to ensure that schools in the state would be safe and accepting places for transgender students. Opponents of the new regulations worry that girls will be unsafe if “boys” are allowed to use their bathrooms. In response, supporters have pointed out that referring to transgender girls as “boys” demonstrates a lack of understanding of transgender individuals. The guidelines add that any refusal to refer to transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns should be treated as bullying.
In order to ensure that all students are being treated respectfully, the document also requires schools to include transgender issues in their anti-bullying curricula. Preventing transgender students from using the bathrooms of their choice or being called by the names they prefer would only make their lives harder. By introducing these changes, the Department of Education hopes to guarantee the safety and comfort of all students. The Massachusetts Department of Education should be commended for working to accommodate and protect transgender students.
Dear Mitchell D. Chester,
Massachusetts recently introduced new guidelines to help schools accommodate transgender students and prevent transphobic bullying. Allowing transgender students to use the facilities that match their gender identities will be helpful in keeping those students safe, and requiring schools to address transgender students according to the names and pronouns they prefer will help them feel accepted.
Some opponents have suggested that the new regulations might endanger students or make them uncomfortable, but supporters agree that the best resolution to deal with any problems that arise is to educate students about bullying and encourage respect for transgender individuals. As the Massachusetts Department of Education has stated, schools must consider the needs of all students and ensure that everyone is being treated respectfully.
These new guidelines will allow transgender students to attend school without fear of harassment. The Massachusetts Department of Education should be applauded for developing these transgender-inclusive regulations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: MDGovepics via Flickr.