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June 12, 2023
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State Education Department Releases Framework for Safe, Supportive, and Affirming School Environments for Transgender and Gender Expansive Students

The New York State Education Department today released a framework and legal update to support schools in fostering an educational environment that is safe, supportive, and affirming for transgender and gender expansive (TGE) students, Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced. The framework provides legal updates and best practices to facilitate compliance with state and federal laws concerning bullying, harassment, discrimination, and student privacy. The update also reflects outreach to include the voices and experiences of transgender and gender expansive students in New York schools.

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, “All students need a safe and supportive school environment to progress academically and developmentally. By adopting the strategies outlined in this framework, schools will be better positioned to foster a more equitable education experience that offers a level playing field that allows every student, including our transgender and gender expansive students, to have a fair chance to succeed.”

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “Safe and supportive schools play a vital role in creating an inclusive and nurturing environment where transgender and gender expansive students can thrive academically, emotionally, and socially. This update was thoughtfully crafted and is the culmination of a robust stakeholder input process to ensure our schools not only promote the well-being and social emotional health of transgender and gender expansive students, but also foster a sense of respect and acceptance that allows them to fully engage in their educational pursuits and be successful both academically and in life.”

Building on our 2015 Guidance to School Districts for Creating a Safe, and Supportive School Environment for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students this update will help public school administrators continue to take proactive steps to create a culture in which TGE, nonbinary, and intersex students feel safe, supported, and included. The framework outlines best practices to assist public schools in implementing sustainable practices to ensure all students are free from discrimination regardless of sex, gender identity, or expression.

To ensure stakeholder input was considered and embedded throughout the update, the Department convened an advisory group. The advisory group was comprised of over 30 stakeholders from across the state and included representatives from New York State community agencies, advocacy and legal entities, school and community-based professionals, and NYSED counsel and Office of Student Support Services staff. New to the update are the voices and experiences of NYS transgender and gender expansive students.

Creating a Safe, Supportive, and Affirming School Environment for Transgender and Gender Expansive Students: 2023 Legal Update and Best Practices was updated to:

  • Reflect changes in New York State Human Rights Law and federal law which provide enhanced protections to transgender and gender expansive students;
  • Provide current national and New York State data on the experiences of transgender and gender expansive students;
  • Clarify information regarding student privacy, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and student records;
  • Provide best practices for supporting transgender and gender expansive students and recommended best practices to move away from gender-based activities;
  • Offer updated and expanded resources for schools; and
  • Include student voices and their lived experiences.

A full version of the framework and legal update is available on the Department’s Office of Student Support Services website.

“All children should feel safe, accepted and supported in school,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Sadly, many transgender and gender expansive students suffer in silence from bullying, harassment and discrimination. The State Education Department has made progress on implementing the Dignity for All Student Act and acting on our audit recommendations. This new information is another important step towards creating a more inviting and accepting environment for all students. When students feel seen, understood and respected, they can focus on their schoolwork and be successful in the classroom. My thanks to Commissioner Rosa for her leadership on this issue.”

“As a pediatrician, I know first-hand how important it is to cultivate an educational environment that supports our youth and affirms their identity, setting them on a path to success that will reach all aspects of their lives, including their social, emotional, and physical health,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Every child deserves to be seen and every child deserves to be respected and valued for exactly who they are. I commend NYSED and Commissioner Rosa for establishing this framework and creating a culture where all young people can thrive.”

“Transgender and nonbinary students deserve the same opportunities to feel safe, supported, and included at school as their peers,” said Gabby Doyle (she/her), Advocacy Campaign Manager at The Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project’s research found that less than half of LGBTQ young people in New York said that their school was an LGBTQ-affirming space, and this legal update and best practices will equip educators with the tools they need to see that number increase. We applaud NYSED’s work to ensure that young trans and nonbinary New Yorkers are able to learn and thrive as their most authentic selves.”

“Transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, and intersex students should be safe and supported in the classroom,” said Allie Bohm, Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “While state law has long prohibited discrimination, bullying, and harassment in schools, today’s legal update and best practices provide a new, tangible framework to support TGNCNBI students—so they can focus on learning, friendships, and developing their passions. As attacks on TGNCNBI youth surge nationwide, we applaud NYSED for sending a clear message that New York schools should be safe spaces for young people as they go along their journey.”

“We know that creating safe spaces with supportive environments improves both the physical and mental health of gender diverse adolescents,” said David Rosenthal, DO, PhD, Founding Medical Director, Center for Transgender Care, Northwell Health. “Additionally, transgender and gender expensive students have high rates of suicide and frequently struggle with both mental and physical health. This document incorporates best practices for making our schools safe spaces for transgender and gender expansive students. In addition, this allows students to be their authentic selves by thriving in a safe, welcoming, affirming learning environment which incorporates a ‘whole child approach,’ which will lead both to improved student success and health.”

“NYASP is proud to endorse NYSED's ‘Creating a Safe, Supportive and Affirming School Environment for Transgender and Gender Expansive Students: Legal Update and Best Practices 2023,’ as it provides up to date evidence about gender identity, the role of school climate in supporting transgender and gender expansive students and their families, and research-based recommendations for educational professionals to follow,” said Christopher Van Houten, M.A./CAS NYASP President.