Why US schools are at the center of trans rights




A civil rights battle with transgender kids caught in the middle.

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In recent years, state legislatures in the US have introduced hundreds of bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Many of those laws are focused in particular on the rights of transgender school children in public schools: what types of bathrooms they can use, whether their pronouns will be used, and whether they can participate in school sports. These laws are increasingly common in Republican-controlled states. Also, they may be violations of federal law.

This puts public schools in these states in a strange position: do they follow state laws that, under the Biden administration, could open them up to a federal civil rights investigation? Or do they ignore state law, and risk the state cutting their funding? Amid all that uncertainty, those who suffer most are the trans children caught up in the fight.

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This video focuses on how that battle is playing out in Tennessee, the state that has introduced more anti-LGBTQ laws in 2022 than almost any other state. We looked at two of the laws that target transgender public school kids: one about bathrooms and one about participation in school sports. Those two issues have very different legal contexts, which you can read more about in the links below.

For more on the legal background of trans and nonbinary rights and bathrooms, you can read about the case of Gavin Grimm:

For more on transgender athletes and school sports, you can read about how Title IX will play a role:
https://apnews.com/article/title-ix-transgender-athletes-rights-9adfe49a8e07f66f07b5e2302bb94730

A note about the data on bullying and school attendance that compares trans, nonbinary, and cisgender students: the sample size of this study is low, covering 14 states that included a question about gender identity, and it’s difficult to ascertain how many transgender students were surveyed in it:
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/su/su6901a1.htm#:~:text=In%20addition%2C%20although,and%20ethnicity%20data

However, surveys by the Trevor Project point to similar findings on bullying and mental health:
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Trevor-Project-Bullying-Research-Brief-October-2021.pdf

Here is more data on mental health and transgender students in US schools:

Transgender students’ rights shouldn’t be subject to partisan feuds

EdWeek has a thorough breakdown of what’s behind the push to legislate school policies, and how anti-LGBTQ laws are used as a political strategy by Republicans:
https://www.edweek.org/leadership/whats-driving-the-push-to-restrict-schools-on-lgbtq-issues/2022/04

For more on the implications for the Nashville school board’s decision to defy Tennessee law:

Tennessee will soon be able to pull funding from schools that defy anti-transgender laws. Where does that leave transgender youth?

Chapters
State law vs. federal law: 00:00
Tennessee’s anti-trans laws: 2:02
Who controls public schools?: 4:22
Legal limbo: 6:21

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