Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Clarification includes protections for transgender students

Lots of news and reports this week out of Washington. Trying to put some weight behind President Obama's January statement of support for victims of campus sexual assault and the White House's commitment to address these issues at the highest level, the OCR issued a 50+ page document it is calling a "significant guidance document." This was in conjunction with a report by the task force assembled to address campus sexual assault.
The former is a very comprehensive document, mostly in question and answer format. It is something schools should read thoroughly. It also encourages more proactive behavior by schools; the use of campus climate surveys was mentioned several times, for example.
One piece of information from the document in particular has made headlines: the inclusion of explicit protections for transgender students. While Title IX has been used in cases of bullying against gender non-conforming students--or those who are perceived to be gender non-conforming, the announcement made the explicit that any discrimination against transgender students--not just assault related to perceived gender non-conformity--will be subject to Title IX protections.

Again, the application of Title IX to students considered gender non-conforming has been practiced for a while now. For example, a Title IX lawsuit has been filed in the recent case of a transgender male student who is fighting to live in the men's dormitories at his Oregon university. Will this new announcement affect any existing complaints or lawsuits or the way schools approach issues relating to transgender students?
As a sort of PS: the announcement of the task force's report included the creation of a new government website, Not Alone, to serve as a resource for victims of campus sexual assault.

PPS: Today's NYT has an article about the largely student-led, grassroots movement behind the increased federal attention to sexual assault. It's something we have been tracking for several years as is obvious in our writing about the cases at Yale, Amherst, Occidental, UNC and more. So it was quite appropriate then that Erin spoke to the reporter.