By: Regina Wright ~Campus News Editor~
New changes can be expected for transgender students on campus courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Divisions.
The two federal departments jointly released “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” (DCL) on May 13, 2016 mandating that colleges make more accommodations for transgender students.
DCL addresses and gives guidance on four broad categories under Title IX including Safe and Nondiscriminatory Environment, Identification Documents, Names and Pronouns, Sex-Segregated Activities and Facilities and Privacy and Educational Records.
“Any time the Office for Civil Rights offers specifics and guidance on a particular area of Title IX, it provides schools with stronger tools and a more useful roadmap to not just be compliant, but as importantly, to help us deliver on our mission to prepare students for a world that is increasingly diverse, complex and interdependent and do so in an inclusive environment of open and free inquiry,” Chief Title IX Officer Kate Lawson said. “It also helps us deliver on our promise to students about their experience while they are with us. Title IX is a civil rights law, and its tenets dovetail with the Jesuit values of social justice and anti-oppression work.”
More specifically, each university must provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students by taking swift and effective steps to identify sex-based harassment, end its occurrence, prevent its reappearance and be able to provide remedy for the effects it may have.
Sex-based harassment involves targeting students for their gender identity, transgender status or gender transition, according to DCL.
School staff, faculty and contractors are to use pronouns and names according to a transgender student’s gender identity even if it differs from their identification or education records.
When a school provides sex-segregated activities and facilities, transgender students must be able to have access to whichever facility or sex-segregated activity they identify their gender with, including restrooms, locker rooms, athletics, single-sex classes, housing and overnight accommodations and other sex-specific activities and rules.
Schools must also protect transgender students’ identity by securing their identifiable information (PII) such as their name and sex given at birth. An invasion of these private and educational records could be harmful to the transgender student and violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
A team formed from several Xavier departments will address changes mandated by DCL and will decided when, where and how they will be implemented.
“Under the leadership and support of Associate Provost and Chief Student Affairs Officer Dave Johnson, we have assembled a cross-campus team to address the key areas of the DCL to ensure we foster an inclusive campus for students who identify as transgender and implement the DCL guidance,” Assistant Director for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Kelsey O’Neil said. “The team consists of leadership from Athletics, Admissions, Residence Life, Facilities, Title IX, and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion.
“Throughout this summer, sub-teams have been identifying first, where we are in relation to the DCL areas and where we need to be to achieve best practice systems and provide the highest level of care for and service to our students, and second, action steps and an implementation plan to bridge where we are and where we want to be.”
Many components of the DCL are already implemented at Xavier, such as sex discrimination policies. Xavier also currently has 58 gender-neutral bathrooms located throughout campus in academic, residential and public buildings.
Each team of departments is working to address DCL mandates as soon as possible.
“I would like to see us become a model and leader on addressing these issues based on our proactive, mission-driven approach, the way we have for our approach to gender-based violence response,” Lawson said.