The Obama Administration has recently added a directive to accommodate transgender students but not every school in the country is ready to do so. Regardless of how school officials may personally—or politically—feel about this issue, there has been substantial opposition to the new laws.
For example, the Kansas State Board of Education has just voted to ignore the new directive, similarly voicing as many others have that this decree amounts, basically, to federal overreach.
The Kansas State Board of Education argues that local schools are better suited to choose how to handle such issues than a federal agency. This includes decisions regarding the daily issues transgender students may face, things like which bathrooms to use and how their name and gender appears on class rosters and various other school records.
In a statement, the Kansas State Board of Education noted, “We are firm in our belief that decisions about the care, safety and well-being of all students are best made by the local school district based on the needs and desires of the students, parents and communities they serve. In Kansas, like many other states, our schools have been addressing transgender student needs with sensitivity and success for many years.”
In addition, Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project executive director Stephanie Mott shares that she regularly receives several communications—via phone , email and text message—from students who do not feel comfortable in their school because teachers insist on calling them by a different name or will not permit them to use the bathroom they feel suits their identity.
She notes “The state board of education has no idea what it’s like to be a transgender person in this state, especially a transgender youth in a school that’s not accommodating,” adding that this is “extremely sad.”
Mott also argues, “The school board is sitting up there going, ‘Everything is wonderful in Kansas schools,’ and at the same time we have a legislator who’s going, ‘I’m going to make it more difficult for all transgender students in the state of Kansas.’ There’s a huge disconnect there.”
While the Obama administration’s bill is not legally binding, of course, schools and school districts that do not comply can be subject to a federal investigation and can even lose federal funding. At this time it is not clear if Kansas schools—or any other which have ignored the decree—plan to fall into line.