Pittsburgh Public Schools: Transgender Nondiscrimination Policies Have Not Changed

Feb 23, 2017

Updated: 1:53 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools District says it is committed to supporting transgender students and has not changed its nondiscrimination policy following the Trump administration’s move to rescind protections.

“I don’t think it will change anybody’s view, and if anything, it will probably make us feel stronger about doing the right thing,” board member Moira Kaleida said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice and Education departments reversed Obama administration directives passed in May allowing transgender students to use the public school facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The Pittsburgh Public School board unanimously cemented that policy in June. It also requires staff to use a student’s preferred name and pronoun without a legal name change or proof of medical treatment, and calls for teacher training.

Ira Weiss, district solicitor, said the withdrawal will have no impact on the district policy and he does not expect any further discussion from the board. 

"The Pittsburgh School Board has clearly indicated its belief that this is a fundamental right that permits students to live their lives free of risk of harassment or bullying," he said. 

Board member Cynthia Falls said in an email the board has not discussed the impact of the move. Carolyn Klug, who represents parts of the North Side, said in an email she stands by her vote affirming the policy. Vice President Silvia Wilson represents several East End neighborhoods. She said she does not expect the policy will be re-visited. Kevin Carter, who represents North Side neighborhoods, said he does not agree with, "any of the current policies of the Trump Administration."

"As a board comprised of all democrats fighting for the equality of our students, I am not certain why this idea would even be mentioned," he said of re-visiting the policy.

Board member Linda Wrenn, who represents Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze said she also will stand by her vote. 

"I feel, in this current political climate especially, that it is more important than ever to push back on all attempts to marginalize any group of students," she said in an email. "Every student deserves to feel welcomed, included and safe in their learning environment."

The student-led Gay Straight Alliance led a workshop earlier this month discussing additional ways to support LGBT students.

The federal guidance issued under Obama determined that Title 9, the federal sex discrimination law, applies to gender identity. A letter from new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sent to public schools Wednesday says that guidance has, “given rise to several legal questions.”

She said the issue of bathroom access should be left to states and school districts to decide.

“We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment,” she said.

A statement from the district Thursday said the move by the Department of Education has not affected the district’s existing policies.

The statement reads: “Discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression continues to be unlawful in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and is prohibited by the policy in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.”