Dept. of Ed OCR Resolves Civil Rights Investigation of California School District

The complaint alleged that the district discriminated against a transgender student by failing to respond adequately to complaints that she was verbally harassed by peers and unfairly disciplined by school staff.
Published: October 16, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with the Downey (Calif.) Unified School District regarding claims of harassment and discrimination of a transgender student.

The complaint alleged that the district discriminated against the student by failing to respond adequately to complaints that she was verbally harassed by peers and that school staff disciplined her for wearing make-up, discouraged her from speaking about her gender identity with classmates and suggested that she transfer to another school.

Under the terms of the voluntary agreement, the district will ensure that gender nonconforming and transgender students can participate fully in school programs and activities in a safe, educational environment.

The district committed to take the following actions:

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  • Engage a consultant with expertise on child and adolescent gender identity, including experience with discrimination against gender nonconforming and transgender students, to support and assist the District with implementing the provisions of the agreement;
  • Work with its consultant to ensure a school climate free of harassment by incorporating age-appropriate information for students on gender identity, gender-based discrimination and harassment;
  • Continue to treat the student the same as other female students in all respects in the education programs and activities offered by the District, including access to sex-designated facilities for female students;
  • Notify the student and the complainant that they may request that the District develop a Student Success Plan to ensure the student has equal access and opportunity to participate in all programs and activities, and is otherwise protected from gender-based discrimination at school;
  • Ensure that the student is not disciplined for acting or appearing in a manner that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity;
  • Remove all discipline imposed on the student during the 2011˗12 school year from the student’s records;
  • Review District policies, procedures and regulations applicable to student participation in all programs and activities offered by the District and make necessary revisions to ensure that all students, including students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are provided an equal opportunity to participate in all such programs and activities in a manner that does not discriminate based on sex, gender identity or gender expression;
  • Develop an implementation guide for administrators, faculty and staff that addresses how the District’s gender-based discrimination policies apply to transgender and gender nonconforming students;
  • Conduct mandatory training on issues related to gender nonconformance and gender-based harassment for District and school-site administrators who have the responsibility of investigating or supervising the investigation of gender-based harassment complaints and implementing other anti-discrimination policies and procedures regarding transgender and gender nonconforming students; and
  • Conduct annual school climate assessments, including a student and parent survey, to evaluate the effectiveness of the District’s bullying and harassment prevention efforts.

Read the resolution letter.

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