For transgender students, there’s a constant fear of being mocked or harassed. A Broward School Board policy is the first step to helping them feel more comfortable.
BY CARLI TEPROFF, firstname.lastname@example.org
For 17-year-old Taylor, a typical school day presents unique challenges: Does he use the boy’s bathroom, or the girl’s? What can he do to keep his teacher from calling him “she?’’ When is the right time to tell classmates his secret?
Taylor, a sophomore at a Broward County high school, is a member of a group of transgender youth who say they were born into the body of one gender, but think, feel, and identify with another.
People just don’t understand it,’’ said Taylor who was born a female, but identifies as a male.
For Taylor and others like him, every day can be a struggle.
He can’t take physical education because that means undressing in front of the other kids. He’s been embarrassed by one teacher who repeatedly calls him “she.’’ He wonders how his classmates would react if his secret got out.
Taylor’s last name and school have been withheld, as have those of other transgender students interviewed for this article, because they fear being bullied or harassed.
Understanding the difficulties and threats these students go through, the Broward School Board recently changed its non-discrimination policy to acknowledge transgender students.
Any employee who discriminates against someone for any reason — race, ethnicity, gender, and now gender expression — may receive a punishment, ranging from a warning to being fired.
For example, an educator who embarrasses a student could face a reprimand.
In reality, the policy is still words on paper. There are no bathrooms being installed for transgender students; there’s no policy on whether a transgender student can try out for a sports team for the opposite sex; no set policy on which school uniform to wear.