Illinois releases guidance to protect trans, non-binary students

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A non-binary student taking notes in class.. Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection. Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection. Made available to media outlets via Creative Commons. No derivatives, no commercial use. See guidelines here: broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) released non-regulatory guidance on non-discrimination protections for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students under the Illinois Human Rights Act on Thursday.

The new guidance document was developed based on a recommendation from the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force. School districts and families can used the guidelines understand the protections afforded by state law.

“Ensuring every Illinois student has access to a safe, validating learning environment where they can be their true self is a top priority for my administration,” said Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “This guidance from the Illinois Department of Human Rights will provide students, caregivers, and educators another tool to ensure classrooms are welcoming, affirming, and inclusive for all students.” 

“Illinois schools must be safe, affirming environments for all students,” said IDHR Director Jim Bennett. “The guidance is intended for school districts, students and their families and caregivers, to better understand their rights and responsibilities under the Act. Today’s issuance of guidance helps schools create safe, supportive environments for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming students to learn and be their true selves.”

IDHR encourages every school district to strengthen its policies, procedures, and practices relating to support for these students.

Just last month, GLSEN released a study that showed 77.3% of transgender students and 69.1% of nonbinary students report facing discrimination, compared to 46.1% of cisgender students.

“Research shows us what students have already been telling us for years– that transgender and non-binary students face more hostile school climates than their peers,” a.t. Furuya, senior youth programs manager for GLSEN, said when the study was released.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction and we should celebrate this victory,” said Dre Duvendack, program coordinator for Gender & Sexuality Student Services at University of Illinois-Springfield. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure non-binary, genderfluid, and gender expansive students, specifically those who do not identify as a girl or boy, are protected as well.”

They said that more examples related to students with these identities in the issued guidance would be especially helpful for schools to provide equitable access to facilities and sports. They would also like to see a rollout of informational material that schools can easily display that would raise awareness on student rights.

“I would love to see this guidance expanded, but I’m very thankful to live in a state that is taking action and moving towards a more equitable future,” Duvendack said.

“I think that Illinois is being a great role model to those states like Missouri who are lacking in offering protections to our LGBTQ+ young people, especially in the rural areas,” said Lisa Dale, Cape Girardeau PFLAG support group coordinator. “The youth are our future. Our LGBTQ+ youth here in southeast Missouri need the same protections and should not have to live in fear.”

Click here to view the guidance online.

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