The New Jersey Department of Education has issued new guidelines for how schools should follow a 2017 law that reinforces protections for transgender students, including a provision that expressly forbids districts from keeping students out of the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
NJ.com reports that the new rules also settle how schools should handle other hot-button issues, such as what name to call transgender students, whether birth names should be printed on school documents and how much schools should tell parents about student's gender identity.
The guidance is especially important because too many schools continue to mishandle situations involving transgender students, says Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, an advocacy group for the LGBT community.
Some schools in New Jersey already have made strides in treatment of transgender students, but others are "in denial" about students' rights, Fuscarino asserts.
According to the guidance:
•A school district must accept a student's gender identity. Parental consent or notification is not required.
•Schools should use a student's preferred name and pronoun, print the preferred name on school documents and keep records with the birth name and gender in a separate, confidential file.
•Students must be allowed to dress in a way that matches their gender identity
•Students must have access to bathrooms, locker rooms, gym classes and other actives that match their gender identity.
•All students, including those uncomfortable being in the same locker room or bathroom as transgender students, must have access to a unisex or private facility.
The 2017 law was designed to replace federal guidance on transgender rights that had been rescinded under the Trump administration.
"New Jersey continues to stand with our LGBTQ community, and that includes the youngest and most vulnerable residents: our children," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says.
Opponents of the law, such as the New Jersey Family Policy Council, had argued that decisions about what names to call students and what bathrooms students use should be made at the local district level.