For many LGBTQ+ youth, going back to school means wondering if they will be safe and able to learn without being bullied, harassed, or assaulted. Maine State Law (Title 20-A if you are interested) states that “All students have the right to attend public schools that are safe, secure and peaceful environments.” Our anti-discrimination law in Maine specifically protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression, in any academic, extracurricular, athletic, research, occupational training or other program or activity. It also protects students during the admissions process and in obtaining financial aid (https://www.glad.org/overview/youth-schools/maine/).
Case law and the Maine Human Rights Commission has specified the following:
- Intentional misgendering or intentional misuse of names is considering discrimination.
- All students have the right to use the bathroom, locker room, or gendered housing most associated with their gender. This means that transgender girls can use the girls bathroom, and transgender boys can use the boys bathroom.
- All students have the right to be protected from harassment on school grounds and at school events.
- Students have the right to bring a same-sex date to prom, homecoming, or other social events.
- If the school supports extracurricular clubs, they must allow and support a GSTA (Gay, Straight, Trans Alliance).
- All students have the right to express their gender through clothing, haircuts, adornments, etc as long as it adheres to the dress code and hate speech laws.
- K-8 schools can determine what sports team a transgender player can play on. Schools can petition the Maine Principals Association for a student to play on the sports team most aligned with their gender. In general, the MPA is supportive of transgender athletes playing on the team that most aligns with their gender.
- Students have the right to learn about LGBT issues and have access to age appropriate information and resources about LGBT issues and people, regardless of objecting school officials or parents.
For more information about LGBTQ+ student rights and how to report discrimination, check out: https://www.glad.org/overview/youth-schools/maine/
How up to date are your school’s policies?
Looking at the policies in the student handbook or school website can provide information on how much experience, training, and guidance the school has in supporting and protecting LGBTQ+ students. Does your school have a Transgender Student Policy? Does their anti-discrimination policy explictly name gender identity and sexual orientation? Do they have a policy about name and pronoun use? Does their confidentiality policy explicitly protect LGBTQ+ youth from being outed against their will? Does the dress code have different standards for male and female students? Almost every school in Maine has these policies accessible to the public on their website.
All schools in Maine should be able to change students’ names and pronouns in their reporting data that is school or building based, but may not be able to change it for state testing as this may require a legal name change. For example chosen names and pronouns should be on attendance and grading documents, however legal names are required for transcripts and testing.