As many of you know, a recent memo from the Federal government suggests a sweeping change in the way gender is defined. As per the American Psychological Association’s issued statement, “A reported attempt by the administration to redefine sex in civil rights law in order to remove anti-discrimination protections for transgender people fails to recognize decades of scientific research into psychology, genetics and physiology.” This will be especially destructive in the context of children and schools. As a College of Education, we have an ethical imperative to speak out in defense of all students, especially when proposed policy changes contradict what the total body of educational research tells us about safe and effective schools for people of all gender identities. We stand by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Safe Schools Guidelines, which state:
Every person shall have a right to attend the public schools of the town where he actually resides, subject to the following section. No school committee is required to enroll a person who does not actually reside in the town unless said enrollment is authorized by law or by the school committee. Any person who violates or assists in the violation of this provision may be required to remit full restitution to the town of the improperly-attended public schools. No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
The Federal government’s proposed changes could undermine the work of educators, and could make schools markedly less safe, less welcoming, and less effective spaces. We affirm that children are harmed by cisgenderism, and in a context where schooling is both compulsory and a necessary prerequisite to democratic participation, such changes as the proposed could be widely disenfranchising and destructive. The College’s mission includes a fundamental commitment to social justice and diversity. We reject this proposed change in the strongest possible language, and we affirm our support for transgender people, and people of all genders, with equal strength.
- Sally Campbell Galman and Dani O'Brien for the UMass Amherst College of Education
Flag courtesy of Sally Campbell Galman