Legal Rights and Issues for Transgender Children

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Parents, society, and the media are becoming more open about the issues facing transgender children, the best way to protect and nurture transgender kids. And while the law has caught up in terms of protecting the rights of adult transgender workers and prison inmates, there are few legal protections in place for transgender children.

Here are a few of the laws already on the books, and some legal issues that parents and their transgender kids may still face:

School Shelter

California was the first state to expand transgender rights and protections to public schools. Passed in 2013, Assembly Bill 1266 guaranteed students the right to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities and use gender specific facilities consistent with their gender identity. That means that transgender students are able to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their self-identified gender.

Also in 2013, the Colorado Rights Division ruled that school districts could not discriminate against transgender students by dictating which bathrooms to use. There, a first-grader overturned a district rule prohibiting him from using the girls' bathroom.

These are only two states, and the laws and policies covering transgender students' rights in public schools vary widely from state to state, and school district to school district. If you're a parent of a transgender child, you should look into your school district's policy (if any) and state education laws to see how transgender issues are addressed at your child's school.

Out and About

Both California and Colorado rulings were based on existing anti-discrimination laws. California's statute was based in part on the Unruh Act, a public accommodations law that prohibits government and private businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sex or gender identity. And Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act also prohibits discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

All states have civil rights laws that address discrimination, although they can vary in what they address and how they address it. While many of these laws many not carry transgender-specific regulations, transgender children may still be protected under gender and/or sexual orientation provisions.

If you have questions about your child's rights at school, talk to an education law attorney in your area.

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