How California’s School Success and Opportunity Act Protects Transgender Students

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Earlier this month California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the landmark School Success and Opportunity Act, or SSOA, into law, making it clear that California public schools have a responsibility to ensure that all of their students—regardless of their gender identity—can access school-based resources. While several of California’s largest school districts had already adopted gender-inclusive policies prior to the bill’s passage, many of the state’s nearly 1,000 school districts unfairly separated transgender students from their peers or required them to enroll in and attend classes that conflicted with their gender identity. The SSOA clarifies the state’s existing nondiscrimination law and protects some of the most vulnerable members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, community.

Policies and practices that misidentify or segregate transgender youth from other students contribute to the already high rates of bullying, discrimination, and harassment that transgender students face nationwide. A 2010 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that nearly 60 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming students reported being bullied or assaulted in school because of their gender identity. This level of harassment and violence leads to both immediate and long-term adverse outcomes for the students, including disproportionately high rates of suicide, homelessness, and illness.

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