The ACLU of RI today applauded the formal filing of regulations this week by the RI Department of Education (RIDE), requiring all public school districts to adopt a comprehensive policy outlining the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students. The regulations take effect on April 17, 2018, and all schools must have a compliant policy in place by July 1, 2018.
“As the federal government continues to undermine the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students, we applaud RIDE’s actions to mandate school districts to have clear and comprehensive policies in place to protect this group,” said Steven Brown, ACLU of RI executive director.
The regulations are the result of an ongoing effort by local organizations, including the ACLU of RI, to protect this group of students, which faces unique discrimination in the school setting. The regulations emanate from a petition that the ACLU and nine other groups – including the RI State Council of Churches, GLAD, and the RI Commission for Human Rights – filed with RIDE last September seeking the adoption of statewide regulations on the subject.
Specifically, the new regulations mandate districts have policies in place that are consistent with state and national best practices, and “address, at a minimum, such issues as confidentiality and privacy, discipline and exclusion, staff training, access to school facilities and participation in school programs, dress codes and official school records and use of preferred names and pronouns.”
In 2016, RIDE released a detailed model policy that aimed to address the specific needs of trans students and ensure schools’ compliance with civil rights laws. However, schools were not mandated to adopt the model policy, and research conducted last year by the ACLU revealed that many RI schools had no policy in place to protect the rights of this vulnerable group.
The ACLU said it will be monitoring RI schools districts to ensure that those still without a compliant policy implement one by the July 1, 2018 deadline. By the ACLU’s last count, there were at least seven school districts across the state without adequate policies in place, including Chariho, Exeter-West Greenwich, Newport and Woonsocket.