Maine schools must provide a safe environment for all students, including transgender students. Those who have a gender identity different from the sex they were assigned at birth are not being given enough protection, let alone the type of welcoming atmosphere that encourages learning.
Some schools have shown leadership by working closely with transgender students and their parents to ensure their needs are met. They have encouraged the creation of student groups to celebrate diversity and made clear that derogatory language is unacceptable. But too many schools have not taken steps to end verbal and physical harassment.
A continuing legal battle over an Orono school prohibiting a transgender child from using the girls bathroom has drawn attention to the experiences of transgender students in Maine. The case has highlighted how little public understanding there is of the best ways to support transgender students’ education.
Nearly nine out of 10 transgender students experience verbal harassment at school because of their gender expression, according to a 2009 study released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. More than half experience physical harassment, and more than a quarter experience physical assault. The attacks often result in transgender students missing more school and receiving lower grades.