ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The New York State Department of Education updated its guidance meant to help schools support transgender and gender expansive students. The guidance was last issued eight years ago.
The new update offers tools to help school staff prevent bullying, make the school environment more inclusive, and appropriately respond when a student comes out during school. It includes sections on laws protecting students, understanding gender identity, names and pronouns, restrooms, updating student records, and more.
According to the new guidance, teachers and school staff do not need a student’s parents’ permission to address that student according to their stated gender identity.
“School personnel’s acceptance of a student’s asserted gender identity should require no more than a statement from the student expressing their preference,” the document reads. “Schools do not need to require permission, letters from professionals, or other proof of gender identity.”
The guidance also cautions schools to follow a student’s lead in maintaining confidentiality around the student’s gender identity.
“The student is in charge of their gender transition and the school’s role is to provide support,” the document reads. “Only the student knows whether it is safe to share their identity with caregivers, and schools should be mindful that some TGE students do not want or cannot have their parents/guardians know about their transgender status. The paramount consideration in those situations is protecting the health and safety of the student, assuring that the student’s gender identity is affirmed and that their privacy and confidentiality are safely maintained.”
The guidance suggests any school staff member to whom a student comes out should ask two questions: “What do you need from me?” and “How can I help you?” The staff member is also advised to ask whether parents, friends, or other staff members are aware. They can then ask who the student would not be comfortable sharing the information with, and maintain confidentiality as requested.
The guidance advises schools to accept a student’s preferred names and pronouns in a way that normalizes the affirmation of gender identity. It provides an example of a form students and parents can fill out to change the student’s name in a more official capacity on the student’s permanent record. This form does require adult consent, but does not require legal documentation of a name or gender change.
Gender-based terminology like “Prom King and Queen” are discouraged in favor of gender-neutral options such as “Royal Court.” Teachers are also cautioned against separating students by gender for group activities in the classroom.
The full guidance is posted below: