NJEA opposes Trump administration scheme to erase transgender identity by definition

The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering a definition of sex that would deny transgender persons protection under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. A leaked HHS memo reveals that the Trump administration seeks to define sex in the law as a “person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

HHS plans to present its definition of sex to the U.S. Justice Department by the end of the year, according to published reports.

NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller, and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty issued the following statement:

“This ill-informed, politically motivated proposal from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts at risk the gains we’ve made here in New Jersey to protect all students, including those students whose gender identity varies from the gender they were assigned at birth.

“In this state, the protection of transgender students crosses party lines. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed the bipartisan Public Law 2017, Chapter 137, to create guidelines that ‘provide direction for schools in addressing common issues concerning the needs of transgender students, and to assist schools in establishing policies and procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students.’ Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed bipartisan legislation to permit New Jersey residents to have their birth certificates amended to reflect their gender identity and created the state’s Transgender Equality Task Force to assess legal and societal barriers to equality and recommend future laws to prevent discrimination.

“The narrow-minded definition of sex promoted by the Trump administration will embolden intolerant individuals to bully and harass those who do not fit their prejudiced notions of ‘appropriate’ gender expression.

“The administration cannot define transgender persons out of existence, nor erase their identity. No definition of sex will change the reality that transgender, intersex and gender nonbinary students attend our schools and that they deserve, like all students, to learn in a safe and secure environment where they are treated with dignity, and where their self-identified gender is respected. This is not only the moral thing to do, New Jersey law requires it.

“Public schools educate every child who comes through their doors, regardless of gender identity. Schools should not be in the business of determining for a student where they fall on the gender spectrum. It is our job to educate students as they are and as they understand themselves to be.”

Note: The December 2017 edition of the NJEA Review, published “Making Schools Safer for Transgender Students,” co-written by Amy Moran, a teacher in Teaneck; Erik Gundersen, superintendent in Pascack Valley; and Jackson Evangelista, a transgender male student at Northern Valley Regional in Demarest. The article also includes key vocabulary to help readers understand the differences between sex, gender, gender identity and gender expression, as well as other terms.

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