NEA President: Every Child has the Right to Feel Safe, Welcomed and Valued

Educators welcome groundbreaking civil rights protections for transgender students in schools

WASHINGTON—Today, the National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional association representing three million educators, enthusiastically welcomed the Obama administration’s guidance for school districts to help ensure the civil rights of transgender students.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Every student matters, and every child has the right to feel safe, welcomed, and valued in our schools. As educators, we are responsible for our students’ education and safety, including transgender students. We know that students are more likely to learn and succeed in safe, supportive environments. Unfortunately, as we have seen play out in places like North Carolina, politicians are playing games with the lives of children and teens who are seen as different because of their gender identity.

“Educators welcome and support the guidance issued by the Obama administration today. The joint letter issued by the federal Departments of Education and Justice is not only timely and right but necessary to ensure that everyone – regardless of gender identity – has the opportunity to thrive and achieve.

“Transgender students have the right to equal educational opportunities, and educational institutions must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all respects. This means, among other things, that transgender students have the right to express their gender identity at school and the right to access to sex-segregated facilities and programs consistent with their gender identity.

“The guidance issued by NEA, coupled with the Obama administration’s, underscores our fundamental belief that a great public school is a right of every student – free from intimidation and harassment, and safe for all students, including those who identify as transgender.

“We support our transgender students, and we look forward to working with our members and other key stakeholders to make sure that the civil rights of all students are protected and respected in our nation’s classrooms.”

Earlier this month, the NEA also issued legal guidance drafted by its Office of General Counsel describing the legal rights of transgender students. In addition to spelling out the rights of transgender students, the guidance provides to NEA members, state affiliates, and the general public key best practices for schools in respecting the rights of transgender students. The Obama administration guidelines and NEA’s guidance are compatible and complement each other.