(San Francisco, CA) —Transgender students and their families are celebrating California’s new School Success and Opportunity Act, which ensures that schools across the state understand their obligation to provide a fair opportunity for transgender students to participate in all school programs and to graduate with their peers. The law went into effect on January 1st.
The new law has been welcomed by school officials, teachers, and parents for educating California schools about meeting the educational needs of these students and their families, who often face daunting challenges that can prevent them from graduating when schools exclude them from activities and programs. The same extreme anti-LGBT groups that sponsored Proposition 8 have criticized this law, but have had trouble gathering sufficient signatures from the public to support a referendum on it.
“For the first time in my life, I’m hopeful—not only for myself, but for every other student like me across the state who will no longer need to fear obstacles standing in the way of their success,” said Ashton Lee, a student from Manteca, CA. “This new law means so much, but more than anything, it means I can now see a future for myself.”
Both state and federal law already prohibit discrimination against transgender students, and many schools districts, including San Rafael and Los Angeles, have had supportive policies for transgender students in place for years. But before the School Success and Opportunity Act was enacted, many schools did not understand their legal obligations to support these students. Too often, transgender students were unfairly excluded from school programs and activities and, in some cases, unable to obtain the credits they needed to graduate.
Added Ashton’s mother Catherine Lee: “Most parents don’t know what it’s like to constantly worry that their child is being kept away from opportunities to excel in school or that bad experiences will have lasting effects. I’m excited for this law because it gives all students a fair chance to succeed.”
The new law has already had a significant impact. Since it was enacted last year, several school districts have already adopted new policies to protect transgender students, and the California School Board Association has encouraged all school districts to do so.
"In my experience, supporting transgender students based on their gender identity, including allowing them to use facilities or participate in activities, is just another way that schools work to ensure all students can be successful,” said Sara Stone, a principal at Oakland Unified School District. “This is not an issue that other students are bothered about, and is one that makes a tremendous difference for the transgender students we serve."
"All students deserve to be fully included in every aspect of the school experience," said EQCA Executive Director John O'Connor. "The elimination of confusion about the law will now lead to greater participation and enrichment by all students, regardless of gender identity or expression."
The School Success and Opportunity Act was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 and is supported by the Support All Students coalition, including Equality California, Transgender Law Center, GSA Network, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of California, Gender Spectrum and many others. To learn more, please visit www.SupportAllStudents.org.