OLYMPIA – Making public schools more inclusive and safer for transgender students would no longer be optional in Washington if legislators pass a bill heard Monday.
School districts would be required to develop a policy to conform to state law that addresses the challenges transgender students face.
Transgender students are more likely to face depression, and many students are forced to seek out resources on their own, said Dr. Jill Davidson, of the Washington State Association of School Psychologists.
“This bill will save lives,” Davidson told the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.
In Washington, 79 percent of transgender students reported some form of mistreatment – including verbal, physical or sexual abuse – according to a 2015 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality. Of the respondents, 21 percent said they faced such severe mistreatment they left school.
The bill would make school districts incorporate guidelines already established by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction as part of its Equity and Civil Rights policy.
Gender Identity and Expression in Schools guidelines include provisions that allow students to identify by their preferred name and pronoun on school records and use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Currently, school districts may opt into these guidelines, but aren’t required to.
The bill also would require school districts to designate a primary contact to oversee the policy. All school staff would be required to receive training.
OSPI estimates it would cost the state $38,000 to implement the proposal in the current biennium, and $20,000 to maintain in each successive biennium.
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