Gender Identity and Expression in Schools
Civil rights laws prohibit discrimination and discriminatory harassment on the basis of gender expression and gender identity in Washington public schools.
Chapter 28A.642 RCW | Chapter 392-190 WAC | Chapter 49.60 RCW
Student Rights-Gender Identity & Gender Expression
Appearance, Restrooms, Locker Rooms, & Athletics
Students have the right to express their gender at school-within the constraints of the school's dress code-without discrimination or harassment.
Public schools must allow students to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity. Any student-transgender or not-who requests greater privacy for any reason should be given access to an alternative restroom or changing area.
Schools must allow all students to participate in physical education and athletics that correspond to their gender identity. Students should contact the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) or review the eligibility section of the WIAA Handbook.
Harassment | Discriminatory Harassment
Harassment based on gender identity and gender expression is a form of discrimination prohibited in Washington public schools. Schools must take steps to protect students and investigate possible discriminatory harassment-as soon as they know or reasonably should know-even if a parent or student does not file a complaint. Discriminatory Harassment - Equity and Civil Rights at OSPI
Questions, Concerns, Complaints
A discussion with your school principal, or civil rights coordinator at the school district, is often the best first step to address your concerns or disagreements about discrimination and work toward a solution. Share what happened and let the principal or coordinator know what they can do to help resolve the problem.
If you cannot resolve the concern or disagreement this way, you can file a complaint.
Preferred Name, Personal Pronoun. Students have the right to be addressed by their preferred name and personal pronouns-he and him, she and her, they and them, or any other pronoun the student prefers-while at school. Schools should not require a legal name change for staff to use the student's preferred name during class, on seating charts, during roll call, on tests and assignments, and on other school records.
School Records. Public school records should use the student's preferred name and gender designation unless there is a legal reason not to do so.
- Non-official School Records. Records that document a student's education should refer to a student by their preferred name and gender. For example, school identification cards should display the student's preferred name.
- Official School Records. Education records mandated by law may require a school to use a student's legal name. Schools should change the student's name on official school records if the student provides documentation of a legal name change. Schools should change a student's gender designation if a parent or student requests the change.
Dress Codes. Students have the right to express their gender at school-within the constraints of the school's dress code-without discrimination or harassment. School dress codes should be gender-neutral and should not restrict a student's clothing choices on the basis of gender.
Restrooms. Public schools must allow students to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Any student-transgender or not-who requests greater privacy for any reason should be given access to an alternative restroom, such as a staff restroom or health office restroom. However, school staff cannot require a student to use an alternative restroom because of their transgender or gender non-conforming status.
Locker Rooms. Public schools should provide access to the locker room that corresponds to a student's gender identity. Public schools may provide a separate changing schedule or use of a private area, such as a nearby restroom stall with a door or an area separated by a curtain, to any student-transgender or not-who voluntarily seek additional privacy.
Sports and Physical Education Classes. Schools must allow all students to participate in physical education and athletics that correspond to their gender identity. Eligibility for interscholastic athletics is determined by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA).
WIAA Handbook: Eligibility
Discriminatory Harassment - Based on Gender Identity or Gender Expression
School staff must take steps to protect students from discriminatory harassment. This includes investigating possible discriminatory harassment - as soon as they know or reasonably should know - even if a parent or student does not file a complaint.
Discriminatory Harassment - Equity and Civil Rights at OSPI
Confidential Educational and Health Information. School staff can only share confidential educational and health information if they are permitted by law. In general, school staff should not share a student's transgender or gender nonconforming status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth with others, who could include other students, school staff, and non-school staff.
- Gender Identity and Expression (Guidelines: Prohibiting Discrimination, pages 28-31)
Model Policy & Procedure
Federal Policy & Guidance
- Transgender Students: Title IX Guidance
- Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students