Monday, May 16, 2016

After Pressure from Sens. Franken and Baldwin, Depts. of Education and Justice Release Guidelines to Protect Transgender Students

Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) applauded the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice for releasing comprehensive guidelines that will help protect transgender students. These new guidelines instruct schools how to protect transgender students from discrimination, and also direct public schools to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Sens. Franken and Baldwin have been leaders in advocating for LGBT students and recently led a broad coalition of 40 Senators in pressing the Department of Education to release comprehensive guidance on the protections afforded to transgender and gender non-conforming students in education. The Senators also praised the Departments for issuing model policies to ensure that transgender students enjoy a supportive school environment free from discrimination and harassment—a significant step forward that the coalition of Senators called for in their letter.

"LGBT students-like any other students-should never feel like they don't belong," said Sen. Franken. "Unfortunately, we've seen far too many attempts to marginalize and discriminate against our LGBT students, neighbors, and family members. I am very pleased that the Obama Administration took real action to ensure that we are providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. This is a big win."

"Every student deserves the freedom and opportunity to dream the same dreams, get a great education, and have the same shot at success. Today's guidance will help schools provide a supportive environment for students free of discrimination." said Senator Baldwin. "Every student deserves to be treated fairly and this marks an important and historic step forward for our country as we work to create an America that is more equal, not less."

Transgender and gender non-conforming students continue to face a disproportionate amount of discrimination compared to their peers. And so, amid attempts by legislatures in states like North Carolina to limit the rights of LGBT people and transgender students, the Senators have been fighting to ensure our LGBT students are protected from discrimination and harassment.

Sen. Franken has long pressed to protect the rights of our LGBT students. Earlier this year, reports revealed that some private colleges and universities sought waivers from federal civil rights laws, which would allow certain institutions to claim exemptions from complying with LGBT non-discrimination protections on religious grounds. In response, Sen. Franken joined several of his colleagues in successfully pressing the Department of Education to help students and families make more informed decisions during the college search process by posting online what schools applied for the waivers. Sen. Franken is also the chief author of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would establish explicit federal protections against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and would also forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students or ignoring harassment. [press release]

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