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Transgender Rights | Students | Connecticut

Connecticut Students Q&A

Are there any laws protecting transgender public school students in Connecticut?

Yes. Connecticut public schools must allow all children an equal opportunity to participate in school regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-15c).

What kinds of conduct does the law cover?

Technically, the law only requires that schools give students equal opportunity to participate in activities, programs, and courses of study. It does not explicitly prohibit harassment or discrimination, although both would likely violate the spirit of the law.

Furthermore, at this time, the law contains no mechanism for students or their parents to bring a lawsuit for violations of the law (see McPhail v. City of Milford, 1999 Conn. Super. LEXIS 428 (1999) (student could not maintain private right of action because statute was to be enforced specifically by the state board of education)).

Are there other laws, which may protect me from discrimination and harassment because of my sexual orientation?

Possibly. Federal law prohibits sex discrimination in public schools that receive federal funding. Depending on the situation, harassment of LGBT students may be actionable as sex discrimination (see, e.g., Ray v. Antioch Unified School District, 107 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (stating that attacks based on a student’s perceived sexuality constitute sex discrimination)). Harassment of transgender students in particular is actionable. Several federal courts have held that the federal anti-discrimination law, Title IX, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity (see, e.g., G.G. v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd., 822 F.3d 709 (4th Cir. 2016) mandate recalled and stayed, Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd. v. G.G., 136 S. Ct. 2442 (2016) (deferring to DOE’s interpretation that Title IX prohibits gender identity discrimination); Bd. of Educ. v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131474 (S.D. Ohio 2016) (same)). Similarly, in 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a joint guidance taking the position that Title IX protects transgender students from discrimination based on gender identity; that Title IX obliges schools to respect a student’s gender identity and allow them to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with that identity; and that Title IX does not require a student to provide documentation or medical diagnosis before being treated consistently with their gender identity (see Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, U.S. Department of Justice/U.S. Department of Education, available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf).

Complaints can be made to your school’s Title IX coordinator, as well as to the federal Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, in Boston. In cases where a school has reacted with deliberate indifference, monetary damages may be available. A student’s constitutional rights may be violated by some kinds of discrimination and harassment.

What can I do if I’m being discriminated against at school?

There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher or counselor, and talk to the people who are bothering you. That is not an option, however, if you don’t feel safe doing so.

Take a look at your school’s policies and notify whoever is supposed to be notified – usually a vice principal or Title IX coordinator. You may wish to document any incidents of harassment or discrimination in writing. Once you meet with the right officials, make a note of what you told them and on what date and ask when they will be getting back to you with a response. If they don’t help you or don’t follow through, you may wish to write to the superintendent and school board and ask them to end the discrimination.

At the same time, or after contacting the administration as set out above, you may want to send a copy of your complaint to the State Dept. of Education. While they do not have an explicit policy on complaints and they have no obligations under the non-discrimination law, you could request that they intervene on your behalf. Contact Office of Public Information, Conn. State Dept. of Education, 165 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT  06145. Their phone number is (860) 566-5677 and their website is http://www.state.ct.us/sde/

If the above methods fail to stop the discrimination, you may also wish to consider taking legal action. Contact GLAD for attorney referrals.

Does Connecticut have a law to protect public school students from bullying?

Yes. The law improved significantly in 2011 with the passage of Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d). Per the law, bullying is defined as repeated written, oral, or electronic communication, or physical acts or gestures by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student, that:

  • causes the bullied student physical or emotional harm or damages their property;
  • places the bullied student in reasonable fear of being harmed;
  • creates a hostile school environment for the bullied student;
  • infringes on the bullied student’s rights or substantially disrupts the education process or the school’s orderly operation.

The law also recognizes that students who are LGBT or are perceived to be LGBT or who associate with LGBT students are often the target of bullying (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d(a)(1)).

Per the law, each school board must develop a “safe school climate plan” that:

  • prohibits bullying on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, at a school bus stop or on a school bus, through electronic means (i.e. cyberbullying)
  • prohibits discrimination and retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying
  • enables students to anonymously report acts of bullying
  • enables parents to file written reports of suspected bullying
  • requires school employees who witness bullying or receive reports of bullying to report it
  • requires schools to investigate all reports of bullying and have a prevention and intervention strategy
  • requires that both the parents of the bully and the parents of the victim be notified about bullying and told about the measures the school has chosen to take in response
  • requires the school to notify the police about any acts of bullying that may constitute criminal conduct
  • requires schools to maintain a publicly available list of the number of verified bullying incidents and to report this annually to the Connecticut State Department of Education
  • requires all school employees to complete annual training on identifying, preventing and responding to bullying and to youth suicide.