Update: State Leaders Reaffirm Protections for Transgender Students

February 24, 2017

Late Wednesday action was taken by federal officials to roll back an Obama era directive that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity. This Executive action left decisions on this issue in the hands of states and in the absence of state policy, districts.

New York leaders were swift in responding, reaffirming the state's commitment to protect the rights of all students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students, regardless of federal action.

Governor Cuomo issued a statement asserting New York's commitment to mainlining current policy and urging the State Education Department and school districts to do the same.

"As the federal government seeks to roll back the progress we have achieved toward equality, we in New York will never stop fighting to ensure the LBGTQ community and all Americans are afforded the equal protections guaranteed to them by the United States constitution. The misguided action taken by the federal government last night runs contrary to the New York Promise of individual freedoms. With the stroke of a pen, they seek to move this country backwards."

The Governor directed the State Education Department to ensure that districts continue with current policy unchanged.

The Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia joined with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and released the following statements within hours:

"Our most sacred duty as parents, educators and leaders of state agencies is to protect all of the children in our care," said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. "Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday.  So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people."

"The Trump Administration's decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "But in New York State, the law remains the law -- and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school.  My office will use all the existing tools of federal, state, and local law to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity."

They also provided links to a number of resources for districts and parents, both on compliance with current state law and to report instances of noncompliance.

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