Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Ken Wagner announced his commitment tonight to require all school districts in the state to adopt comprehensive policies affirming the civil rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students. The announcement, made at a meeting of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, supports a petition that the ACLU of RI and nine other organizations filed last month seeking the adoption of a regulation to provide this protection.
In 2016, partly in response to federal guidance on the issue that has since been repealed by President Trump, the state Department of Education (RIDE) released a detailed model policy that aimed to address the specific needs of trans students and ensure schools’ compliance with civil rights laws. The model policy highlighted many issues facing these students, including confidentiality, access to facilities, participation in school programs, and dress codes.
However, the RIDE policy remains just a model, and as such, schools are not mandated to adopt it. In fact, a recent report from the ACLU of RI found that more than 25% of RI public schools have no comprehensive policy in place to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
Numerous organizations and individuals testified in support of the petition, and Commissioner Wagner indicated that a formal regulation would be presented to the Council at its next meeting on October 24th.
ACLU of RI Policy Associate Marcela Betancur said tonight: "This is an important step to guaranteeing equitable treatment of all transgender and gender non-conforming students across Rhode Island. We look forward to working with RIDE and the school districts to ensure that the regulations and policies that are adopted provide comprehensive and meaningful support for students."
The other signatories to the petition were AIDS Project Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias, Rhode Island Working Families, Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), and The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health.