Title IX Update from our PACTS Team

  • Supervising Attorney Barrett Marshall, Dane Menkin, CRNP, Matthew Fellows, MD; L. Elaine Dutton, LCSW, and Allison Harris, LCSW, are among the staff who collaborate and work with youth and families involved with our PACTS program.
*Note: Mazzoni Center’s Mazzoni’s Pediatric & Adolescent Comprehensive Transgender Services program, also known as PACTS, draws on the input and expertise of multiple departments within Mazzoni Center, including medical providers, social workers, therapists, and legal staff.  This post was co-authored by Mazzoni Supervising Attorney Barrett Marshall, Nurse Practitioner Dane Menkin, and Trans Services Manager L. Elaine Dutton of the PACTS team, and examines the potential impact of the recent DOJ guidance not just on a young person’s legal rights but also on their mental and emotional health.
 
On May 13, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice released guidance on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its specific application to transgender individuals in educational settings. Title IX provides that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Protection from discrimination on the basis of sex has been demonstrated to include gender identity discrimination in many contexts. While it has been understood that transgender students enjoy the protection of Title IX, the most recent guidance is the first time that the federal government has provided such clear interpretation for best practices in educational settings. 
 
The guidance is a mark of significant social and legal progress, but it is important to note that many school districts throughout Pennsylvania have already implemented the practices it identifies. Mazzoni Center’s Pediatric & Adolescent Comprehensive Transgender Services (PACTS) program members regularly advocate on behalf of transgender children and adolescents to establish access to gender appropriate bathroom and locker room facilities, pronoun usage, preferred name usage, and protection from bullying. We applaud the Departments of Education and Justice for issuing guidance that includes clear expectations of measures that help to create an affirming and healthy environment for transgender students:
  • A school must treat all students in accordance with their gender identity, notwithstanding the student’s assigned sex.
  • A school may not require a medical diagnosis or treatment that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity
  • A school may not require updated identity documentation in order to be expected to address the student by their preferred name and gender appropriate pronouns
  • A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students to access such facilities consistent with their gender identity
  • A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. Schools are always free to offer individual-user options for any student who seeks greater privacy.
  • A school may be found in violation of Title IX if they fail to take reasonable steps to protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status, birth name, or sex assigned at birth.
Following these guidelines can be a great start to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students. An affirming educational environment is crucial to a healthy social transition for a young person. Think about the experience of a young person living in a community that does not accept fluidity of gender expression and identity; this person would likely feel isolated and invisible. Such isolation can lead to feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, decreased self-confidence, and even suicidal thinking. Many of the youth we support in our PACTS program have had such experiences. We prioritize the acknowledgment of their strength in choosing to share their identity with us and the world around them, and this affirmation has a profound impact on their well-being. If what follows is a supported social transition, we see an expanse of benefit that includes a decrease in anxiety and depression, heightened self-awareness and confidence, and motivation. The new Title IX guidance is a noteworthy and crucial step towards supporting trans and gender non-conforming youth as they transition socially in our schools. 
 
In our care of over 800 transgender youth, we have seen the overwhelmingly positive impact that social recognition of gender identity and medical treatment has on the well-being of these youth. When a trans or gender non-conforming youth begins to assert their affirmed gender the community response may be positive for some, but unfortunately, most environments are not yet culturally competent with respect to gender identity. Mazzoni Center’s PACTS program identified the need for unique care of this population and responded with LGBT identified skilled clinicians, social workers, and attorneys to offer what is the most comprehensive program available within a primary care setting in the country. 
 
The coordination between medical providers, social workers, advocacy organizations, and schools is crucial in the provision of holistic care for trans and gender non-conforming youth. Successful communication and a unified, predictable path for families is what we know builds resilient and successful transgender youth. The role of medical transition takes many forms ranging from puberty suppression to cross sex hormone administration at the appropriate time and dose.
 
This care is guideline directed and being applied at programs all over the country. With the appropriate application of medicine, emotional support, and community affirmation, we have found that young people can have a comfortable, healthy gender transition. The participation of schools in creating that affirming community atmosphere cannot be overstated. The PACTS team looks forward to the application of this new Title IX guidance and the improved school environments that will come as a result. We know that our young clients and other trans and gender non-conforming youth are much more likely to find themselves safer and healthier with the Departments’ recommendations in place.

Additional Reading/Resources

 
 
Trans Youth Family Allies also provides a lot of helpful information on supporting trans/gender nonconforming youth.  
 
 

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