Transgender advocates and civil rights groups plan to urge Rhode Island to adopt a statewide policy on transgender students in public schools. Last week the federal government issued guidance that says transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom and locker room of the gender they identify with.
The Obama administration also instructed teachers to use the name and pronoun the family prefers.
Some states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey already have statewide policies on transgender students. Rhode Island education officials said they are reviewing the new federal guidance on as they prepare to issue their own to local school districts.
Rhode Island ACLU Director Steve Brown says it’s been at least a year and a half since the state appointed a committee to look at the issue. Brown says it’s time to adopt a statewide policy to protect transgender students.
“Teachers and others should respect the student’s gender identity,” said Brown. “Call them by the name that they want to be called by. It can affect, obviously the hot-button issue of where they go to the bathroom, perhaps what classes they take.”
Cumberland this year became the first Rhode Island school district to adopt an official policy guaranteeing transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Westerly considered a transgender policy in 2014 but tabled the issue due to opposition from some residents.