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What’s next for transgender students in Indy?

Trump’s removal of protection for transgender students leaves some Indy schools without guidance


Domince is a transgender student we wrote about in 2015. Check NUVO archives for her story. - MARK LEE
  • Mark Lee
  • Domince is a transgender student we wrote about in 2015. Check NUVO archives for her story.

Kriztina Inskeep sees firsthand every month how important Title IX really is.

She is the head of Gender Expansive Kids and Company, a monthly support group for transgender families. After the Trump administration released a letter on Wednesday reversing a guidance that Obama set in place last year, telling schools to protect transgender students, Inskeep got a call from one of the parents in the support group.

The mother was at work when her transgender daughter’s school called her. There had been a complaint filed Thursday morning with the school. Someone was upset that her daughter was changing for gym in the girls’ locker room — an agreement that the student and family came to with the school years ago. Since the notice from the Department of Education and Justice was released the day before, the school told the student they would have to change somewhere else.

“It’s going to shake her self-esteem,” says Inskeep.

She is right, but there’s more to it than that. A big issue for trans kids is being outed before they want to be, which puts them at risk for bullying, assault and more.

The recent order from the Trump administration could put transgender students all over Indiana at risk. And, now, schools are at a bit of a loss on what they should do.

“Because [the letter] doesn’t roll back Title IX, I think it’s unclear to a lot of people,” says Chris Paulsen, campaign manager of Freedom Indiana, a Hoosier LGBTQ advocacy group. “There are some school districts who already have strong protections in place. For those, I don’t think things will change. … There are other school districts in the city that don't have those protections in place, and were relying on that guidance.”

Freedom Indiana worked with the Indianapolis Public School system in 2016 to add specific policies regarding trans and gender nonconforming students to their official administrative guidelines. The result is a strong policy that tells IPS teachers that:
  • They cannot share any information about a student’s “transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth” because it could be confidential medical or educational information.
  • They must call a student by the name that aligns with their presented gender.
  • While restroom and locker room use is labeled a case by case basis, the IPS policy notes that “in most cases, transgender students should have access to the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they consistently assert at school.”
  • That students who are uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same restroom or locker room as them, can use “a private area (e.g., staff restroom or health office restroom).” The report adds that “no student, however, should be required to use an alternative restroom because they are transgender or gender nonconforming.”
IPS released the following statement regarding the decision:

IPS believes strongly that students learn best in schools that are safe, nurturing and respectful environments. In accordance with our policy on discrimination, an IPS student may not, on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other unlawful basis, be limited in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity, including courses, extracurricular activities, benefits, and facilities. We have not yet received written guidance from the US Dept. of Education on the reversal of guidelines impacting transgender students. IPS will continue to work with our staff, students and families as circumstances arise to ensure that every student has a welcoming place to attend school and a positive environment in which to learn. 

“There is more uncertainty now,” says Paulsen. “Title IX still covers transgender students under the sex portion of it. But I think we will see more complaints from other parents because they think there are no laws anymore, which in fact there still are.”

Inskeep, whose son came out a trans when he was 17, knows the potential impact of a school with no protections all too well.

“Already trans people feel different,” says Inskeep. “They feel anxious. Am I going to pass? Am I going to be accepted for who I am and not for some strange reason? Already they are feeling this angst.”

She noted that anytime her and her son (who wished to not be named) were in public and he was treated just like any other person, she could see the relief flood over him.

“Every time we went out in public it was fraught,” says Inskeep. “We didn't know how he would be treated.”

Their family had a particularly difficult time with her son’s school when he came out. He attended a private independent Catholic school in Indianapolis. The school didn’t receive federal funding, so they weren’t bound by any law regarding LGBTQ+ protections. Inskeep says the bishop who oversaw the school at the time, told teachers they would be fired if they called Inskeep’s son by his chosen name.

“I had teachers in tears because they wanted to support our son, but they needed a job,” says Inskeep.

The school wouldn't even budge when it came to announcing his name in marching band.

By the time he graduated there was a new bishop who allowed teachers to call him by his name, and who made sure his awards reflected his correct name and gender. But the experience took a toll on her son.

“What concerns me is the people who are afraid and up in arms, because of the polarization on this topic,” says Inskeep. “… I am afraid that now, those administrators or schools — who have resisted or not quite understood what it means to be transgender as a child — may have an excuse to not support children.”

Transgender students and families around the country will likely have to wait and see the outcome of the pending SCOTUS case G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board — one that will determine if Title IX protects transgender students as well. It currently protects students from discrimination based on sex.


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