Report: Illinois schools could do better for transgender students

Transgender and nonbinary students should be allowed to use their preferred name and gender in their student records and on standardized tests without a legal name change, according to the state’s Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force.

The task force recommended that the Illinois State Board of Education develop procedures to make that happen. Plus, it urged schools to take more steps to include transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students in activities, including sports.

The task force’s report was released Friday by Gov. JB Pritzker’s office detailing how K-12 schools can support transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students. Pritzker created the task force last summer.

“I want every student in Illinois to know that there is a place for them, and that their schools should be safe and welcoming places, and my administration is deeply committed to this work,” he said in a news release with the report. “…I encourage schools around the state to use these principles and best practices as they work to make their learning environments more inclusive.”

The state can do more to support the students, the task force report suggested. According to a 2019 national survey by the Trevor Project, 78 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity and 58 percent reported being discouraged from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, the report said.

The state as a whole also should consider teacher preparation programs that address the issues facing transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students, while the state sex ed curriculum for K-12 should be evaluated, the report said.

It also recommended that the Illinois Department of Human Rights offer school districts advice on how to support the rights of the students, including the right to participate in sports and activities, the right to be protected from bullying and harassment and the right for students to use their affirmed name and pronoun.

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