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New York City updates guidelines designed to protect transgender students

On the heels of the federal government’s decision to roll back protections for transgender students, education officials are making New York City’s even more explicit.

The updated guidelines — which build on a set first released in 2014 — require educators to use pronouns in accordance with a student’s gender identity and generally allow students to participate in school activities (such as intramural sports teams or gym class) on that basis. Still, the new guidance does not take a firm position on participation in “competitive athletic activities” — which is to be resolved on a “case-by-case basis.”

“These guidelines are intended to help schools promote the educational and social integration of transgender and gender nonconforming students and ensure a safe learning environment,” according to the guidelines, which also include language on how to support students who are transitioning.

The updated policies earned praise from advocacy groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, which called it “some of the strongest, clearest guidance in the country.”

But the civil liberties group criticized the education department’s procedure for updating a student’s name or gender on permanent files, which require documentation such as passports or birth certificates that match the student’s gender identity.

“The new guidelines include needlessly restrictive criteria for updating a student’s gender on permanent records, requiring an amended birth certificate or passport for no legal reason,” the NYCLU said in a statement.

In response, an education department official said the documents were needed to “ensure consistency” and that “changing these documents at the school level could potentially make it more challenging to access public assistance.

“We recognize these concerns,” the official added, “and are having ongoing conversations with families and schools around ways to continue to improve the guidelines.”