After Trump rollback, Pittsburgh schools affirm transgender student rights

The district isn’t going to change its policy.

SickestFame / Flickr
MJ Slaby

A day after President Donald Trump rolled back protections for transgender students, Pittsburgh Public Schools officials defended their policy on what they called “basic human rights.”

The city’s schools have had that policy in place for months, but the topic gained new urgency after the president and newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos withdrew federal guidelines regarding policies for transgender students, which in part allowed students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Those guidelines were issued to public schools by President Barack Obama’s administration in May 2016.

In the one-page statement sent to The Incline, Pittsburgh schools said:

Every student has the right to a safe and welcoming education. We believe transgender and gender expansive rights are basic human rights and understand the necessity of students accessing the full complement of academic supports and facilities without fear of discrimination.

While students’ protections under Title IX, local laws and other District policies continue to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, the District’s policy is an additional effort to ensure we are clearly communicating the rights of students as they relate to gender, gender identity and gender expression.

The district also stressed that the lack of federal guidelines doesn’t change what’s in place:

Although the President has taken steps to roll back the federal guidance issued by the office for civil rights relating to the rights of transgender students and their access to school facilities, our local laws and policies have not changed.  Discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression continues to be unlawful in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and is prohibited by the policy in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Officials said in the statement that Pittsburgh’s was “the first District in Western Pennsylvania to affirm the rights of transgender and gender expansive students” by adopting its current policy on June 22 of last year.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh school board was working on the policy before the Obama administration’s directive.

The policy addresses a variety of areas of student life from restroom usage to “bullying and harassment, privacy and confidentiality, names and pronouns, medical treatment, dress code, transitions and more” allowing students to participate in a way that matches their gender identity, according to the statement.

Outside of the school district, inauguration singer Jackie Evancho, who attends the Pine-Richland School District, tweeted at Trump to ask him to speak with her and her sister, Juliet, about transgender rights.

The Evancho sisters told KDKA they were disappointed to hear the guidelines were removed and wanted to share their personal experiences with the president.

Before the inauguration, Jackie Evancho garnered both praise and criticism for agreeing to sing. She told the New York Times that she agreed to sing “for my country” and added that “if people are going to hate on me it’s for the wrong reason.”