Transgender Harassment In Schools
It is often observed that transgender people know who they are at a pretty young age, though they don’t always admit it. Admitting oneself to be a member of a sexual minority is tough at any age. It’s especially tough at a young age, despite the fact that our culture continues to move toward a greater level of acceptance of and comfort with sexual minorities.
Yet in the world of sexual minorities, perhaps it’s hardest to acknowledge that one is transgender.
Even though a student may be well-aware at a very young age that he or she identifies closely with the opposite gender, that youth might be terrified to admit it to anyone, including other students, educational professionals, and even parents or family members.
When a student does have the courage to admit this, a student deserves the greatest level of protection the law can afford.
Thankfully, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, one of the most comprehensive civil rights statutes in the country, affords protection of this nature. The New Jersey LAD prevents discrimination or harassment on the basis of transgender status, gender identity or gender expression, all of which are many shades of the same light.
It doesn’t mean that it’s easy for the school or school professionals to educate students or other professionals about these issues, because they are still poorly understood by the culture at large. It’s not easy to resolve questions of bathroom use and clothing appropriate in the school setting, but the school professionals and board must always err on the side of the rights of the student, when at all possible. When a school restricts a student’s gender identity or expression, permits the student to be harassed, intimidated or abused because of transgender status or identification with the opposite gender, refuses to allow the student to express himself or herself as is healthy and natural, the school is violating the New Jersey LAD and is subject to compensatory damages, punitive damages, equitable remedies and attorneys’ fees.
The New Jersey LGBT rights attorneys at Costello, Mains & Silverman, LLC, have been representing sexual minorities, and particularly transgender people, for decades. We have represented transgender workers and transgender students, and we know how to hold school boards and school professionals accountable under the New Jersey LAD and under the New Jersey State Anti-Bullying Law when the schools fail to support gender identity, gender expression and transgender students.
Being who you are is a good thing, and the schools are the places to teach that and foster that. When they don’t, come to us and we’ll make sure that they learn the lesson.