Generally Speaking: Transgender PIP

The Arlington Public School (APS) system is currently in the process of enacting a new Policy Implementation Procedure (PIP) regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students in the county. The PIP would, among other things, allow these students to use the bathrooms and join the sports teams that align with their gender identity. This policy is a significant component of creating a safe and supportive environment where students can pursue academic success without fear of being discriminated against or harassed based on their gender identity.

While some might find the measures included to be minor, such as establishing each student’s right to be addressed by the name and pronouns of their choice, they may mean much more to transgender and gender non-conforming students who have not always been guaranteed such a right. According to the American Medical Association, the ability to live a life that aligns with one’s gender identity has a direct impact on mental health. Studies have shown that members of the LGBTQ+ community face high rates of depression and mental illness, including one study from 2016 that linked a lack of access to facilities like appropriate-gender bathrooms to a higher risk of suicide in transgender college students. Policies such as the proposed PIP aid in establishing an environment where gender non-conforming and transgender students may see an improvement in their mental health due to their access to gender-appropriate facilities.

The PIP is not a radical change, either, but one that is being proposed and implemented nationwide. The state of California passed a bill in 2013 protecting the rights of all public school students in the state to use the facilities that aligned with their gender identity. In 2016, after passing a “bathroom bill” that banned the use of bathrooms that did not align with an individual’s legal sex, North Carolina faced significant backlash as companies pulled planned investments in the state’s economy. The bill was repealed the following year. A Virginia court case decided in 2018 against a school district that had banned transgender student Gavin Grimm from using the bathroom that aligned with his gender identity. The decision came four years after Grimm filed his first complaint. Court cases and state laws regarding the right of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to use the facilies of their choice have existed on America’s political landscape for years.

The measures included in the proposed PIP are capable of creating positive change in the county. Not only are measures such as this one a fundamental piece of creating an equal and accepting society, but they also safeguard the mental well-being of transgender and gender non-conforming students. This proposed policy demonstrates the county’s drive to develop and maintain a safe place for students as they learn and grow.