By Shelby Hall Denney, the Safe Schools Program Coordinator at PFLAG NYC.
New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) have rules to protect LGBTQ+ students, educators and staff from discrimination. Unfortunately, not all schools are aware of them, so it’s important to know your rights and where to find help.
NYCPS’s Guidelines for Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students lists students’ rights and provides links to important resources such as the Name and Gender Change Request Form and contact information for reporting harassment and reaching out to NYCPS’s Respect for All and LGBTQ+ offices.
Here’s a rundown of the Guideline’s key safeguards for LGBTQ+ students.
School staff must use a student’s preferred name and pronouns
While mistakes are part of learning and growth, intentional misgendering of a student goes against school policy. Staff may not refuse to use the student’s preferred name and pronouns, and non-permanent records should reflect these preferences, even without legal changes. Use the Name and Gender Change Request Form to change permanent records.
Targeting an LGBTQ+ student is considered harassment
Harassing an LGBTQ+ student is not allowed. When bullying targets someone for who they are, like gender identity or sexual orientation, it's called harassment, and it goes against school rules.
School staff may not “out” a student without student consent
If a student shares their identity with a staff member, that person becomes a secret keeper. This rule protects students from potentially unsupportive environments. Every student should control when and to whom they reveal details about their sexuality or gender identity.
Students may use the bathroom and locker room consistent with their gender identity asserted at school
Students may use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Each school must also have at least one gender-neutral bathroom for student use only.
Students may participate in classes and activities consistent with their gender identity asserted at school
Students must be permitted to play on sports teams and participate in activities matching their gender identity. Health classes are mixed, and everyone learns together. In physical education, activities are sometimes divided by gender. Schools should eliminate any gender-based practices that do not serve "a clear pedagogical purpose," according to the Guidelines. PFLAG discourages separating gym classes, as well as school clubs and activities, by gender. Everyone should feel included!
Every school has a Respect For All liaison
There's a Respect For All liaison in each school to make sure it's a safe place. The liaison is there to handle bullying and harassment as well as keeping the school safe and respectful for everyone.
It is such a comfort to know that our city’s public schools are on the side of human rights. However, if you see that your school is not implementing these mandatory policies, do not be afraid to speak up! There are wonderful people working in the LGBTQ+ offices who can help. Do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org for support.