Protecting and supporting the rights of transgender students

A word from MSEA’s legal team

See resources below.

The implementation of the rights of transgender boys and girls in school settings are evolving — but the fact that they are protected under law is not in question. If you are concerned about a transgender student’s safety, rights, or well-being, you must take action. If you are concerned about your ability to offer a transgender student any of the fol­lowing safeguards, you should take the concerns to your administrator.

Students have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Harassment and bul­lying because the student is transgender must be reported, investigated, and rem­edied according to the student code of conduct and the disciplinary policy. All schools are required to have a process through which students can complain of alleged sex discrimination, including transgender harassment, and all educa­tors should be familiar with the policy.

Students have the right to not be disci­plined or be treated differently because they are transgender or gender non-conforming.

Students have the right to equal educa­tional opportunities, including the right to participate in athletic or extracur­ricular activities and events and the use of locker rooms, restrooms, or facilities consistent with their gender identity. A student may be offered a gender-neutral restroom but should not be required to use it. Any student who seeks increased privacy for any reason should be accom­modated. All locker rooms and restrooms should have some private, enclosed changing areas, shower areas, and toilets. If a non-transgender student complains, school officials may offer the student an alternative restroom, but a transgender student’s access to facilities consistent with their gender identity cannot be denied due to others’ discomfort.

Students do not have to provide medical documentation of a gender transition to have access to facilities and programs. This means that institutions must accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without substantiating evidence. Students have the right to transition at school, which means they have the right to express their transitioned gender.

Students have the right to be called by their preferred names and pronouns.

Students have the right to dress accord­ing to their gender identity as long as it complies with the student dress code. This is consistent with a student’s liberty interest in appearance under the First Amendment.

Students cannot be compelled to provide personal and medical information. Any information disclosed to school officials about a transgender student, including information about the student’s sex as­signed at birth, medical history, gender identity, or gender transition is confiden­tial under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Such information cannot be disclosed without the express consent of the student.


The National Association of School Psychologists — Safe School Environments for Transgender Students; NEA’s Legal Guidance on Transgender Students’ Rights; ActionLine’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; GSA Network.