Civil rights laws prohibit discrimination and discriminatory harassment on the basis of gender expression and gender identity in Washington public schools. All students have the rights to be treated consistent with their gender identity at school.
Safe & Nondiscriminatory Environment
Washington public schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, including transgender and gender-expansive students. Bullying or harassment that targets a student based on their gender identity or gender expression is discriminatory harassment. Schools must take steps to protect students from discriminatory harassment and must investigate possible harassment as soon as they know or reasonably should know about it, even if a parent or student does not file a formal complaint.
Names, Pronouns, & Gender Designations
In Washington public schools, students have the right to be addressed by their requested name, pronoun (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.), and gender designation.
Public School Records
Public school records should use the student's requested name, pronoun, and gender designation unless there is a legal reason not to do so.
- Non-official Records should refer to a student by their requested name and gender. For example, school identification cards, athletic rosters, playbills, attendance lists, etc. should display the student's requested name, pronoun, and gender designation.
- Official Records. Certain education records, such as the transcript, may still require a school to use a student's legal name. Schools should change the student's name on a transcript 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 (i.e., no proof of legal change required).
Name & Gender Designation Changes
A legal name or gender designation change is not required in order for public schools to use the student's requested name, pronoun, and gender designation during class, on seating charts, during roll call, on tests and assignments, and on other public school records. Of course, if the student has undergone a legal name or gender designation change, the public school should use the new legal name and gender designation from that point forward (i.e., the change is not retroactive).
Dress Codes & Gender Expression
Clothing and hairstyle are two ways in which students often express gender. Students have the right to express their gender at school, within the constraints of the school's dress cose, 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.
Sex-Segregated Facilities & Activities
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, if one is available. However, school staff cannot require a student to use an alternative restroom because of their transgender or gender diverse status.
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 & Physical Education Classes
Public 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).
Confidential Educational & Health Information
Public 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-diverse status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth with others, who could include other students, school staff, and non-school staff.
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.
Resources & Support
- Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools
- Growing Up Trans (PBS Frontline)
- Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students (U.S. Department of Education)