Superintendent Message on Transgender Student Protections


(The following was sent to parents on Friday, February 24, 2017)

On February 9, 2017, the Davis School Board approved the We All Belong Resolution providing a clear and transparent statement that DJUSD shall be a place where all students, employees and families feel welcome and safe regardless of their immigration status, race, color, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Today, I ask you please take a moment to read the attached message from California State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson reminding Californians that State law protects transgender students’ rights.

Of note in the letter, Torlakson states, “All students deserve a safe and supportive school environment. California will continue to work to provide that environment for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students regardless of any misguided directives by the federal government and the Trump administration.”

Per California law AB 1266, and consistent with our  We All Belong effort in Davis, students in our district will be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, and facilities including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her gender identity.  If you or your child have questions, I encourage you to talk to your school principal.

In DJUSD, we don’t just believe in the values of diversity and inclusion, but we have a talented, caring staff whose words and actions each day engender belonging and ensure these values are alive and thriving on our campuses and in our classrooms. I want to thank our community of parents and partners who continue to share their support and ideas with my staff on how we can continue to make DJUSD an even greater district for all students.


John A. Bowes, Ed. D.


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reminds Californians that State Law Protects Transgender Students’ Rights

(Press Release)—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today reiterated his strong support for the rights of transgender students and reminded all Californians that state law requires public schools to allow students access to the restroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.

“All students deserve a safe and supportive school environment. California will continue to work to provide that environment for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students regardless of any misguided directives by the federal government and the Trump administration,” Torlakson said.

Joint action by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice is expected to revoke federal guidelines adopted by the Obama administration in May 2016 to protect the rights of transgender students at schools by allowing them to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity.

In 2013, California became the first state in the nation to enshrine certain rights for transgender K–12 students in state law, including the right to choose the bathroom or locker room consistent with their gender identity.

Torlakson said action announced by the White House does not roll back protections for California students and educators.

“California students will continue to have their civil rights protected,” he said. “In California we move forward, not backward.”

Governor Brown signed AB 1266 in 2013 and created protections for transgender students. The California Department of Education has Frequently Asked Questions at this web link.


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16 thoughts on “Superintendent Message on Transgender Student Protections”

  1. Keith O

    California will continue to work to provide that environment for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students regardless of any misguided directives by the federal government and the Trump administration.”

    That’s exactly what Trump’s directive conveys, that states will determine their own policy.  So how is that a misguided directive?  Another cheap shot?

    1. David Greenwald

      The previous standard offered federal guidelines which among things stated that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity. It also stated that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

      Trump believes that those issues are best handled by the state, but if you believe that states and local district were in fact creating discriminatory policies towards transgender students and that such discriminatory policies are wrong and violate federal anti-discrimination laws, then you believe that Trump’s executive order is misguided.

      1. Keith O

        So you want the Feds making laws telling states what they have to do as long as you agree with it but don’t want the Feds telling states that they must abide by immigration laws?  Got it!

        1. David Greenwald

          Completely separate issues. I believe that the federal government has every right to enforce federal immigration laws. What I object to is the federal government asking state law enforcement to do so. On the other hand, with respect to civil rights law protection of civil rights has been not only mandate federally but applied to the states, so the states in my view cannot violate someone’s federal civil right – that was the whole battle over the civil rights movement that should have been resolved more than half a century ago.

        2. David Greenwald

          Since you’ve managed to once again take us off topic, I will oblige you one more point – conservatives seem to miss the fact that immigration laws are actually quite unique in the respect that there are not an analogous set of state laws on immigration issues like most others. For example, there are federal drug laws but the states have their own drug laws. That means if I get arrested by DPD and charged with drug possession, I don’t get charged federally, I get charged under the state health and safety code. Here would be an example, but there is no longer a state law against possessing marijuana, the federal government cannot and should not be able to order DPD to arrest me for possessing marijuana. If they want to do that, they can send in DEA or the FBI and do it. There is no state immigration law and therefore if the federal government wants to enforce immigration laws, they need to send in federal agents to do that.

          And to bring this back to transgender, using this standard as the appropriate analogy, the federal government under Obama couldn’t ask a state agency to enforce their anti-discrimination laws, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have federal anti-discrimination laws.

          You’re conflating federal laws with federal enforcement of the law. Which is why your argument fails.

    2. Eric Gelber

      … states will determine their own policy.  So how is that a misguided directive?

      Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” In fact, it’s “states’ rights” that deserves that description.  States rights has long been code to mean the right to discriminate–on the basis of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It is the proper role of the federal government to ensure that the civil and human rights of all individuals are protected. The Trump administration’s directive, on the other hand, is misguided because it would, in the name of states’ rights, condition basic human rights and dignity on geography.

      1. Howard P

        Eric… “states rights” could also be seen the other way… it was ‘states’ that prohibited slavery within their borders… it was ‘states’ that approved same-sex marriage… it was ‘states’ that opened the doors to medical (and then recreational) use of marijuana.

        “States’ Rights” has been a two-edged sword regarding many things… and, I think, overall all, with some good outcomes, some not so much, “states’ rights” is not inherently bad… but needs to be ‘watched’…

        1. Eric Gelber

          Well, it hasn’t worked that way historically. When the concept of states’ rights is invoked, it is almost exclusively used as justification for discrimination and denial of civil rights.

        2. Eric Gelber

          You’re missing the point, Howard. I’m not talking about the variation among states in pioneering or recognizing civil rights. I’m talking about the explicit and consistent use of “states’ rights” as a pretext for discrimination.

        3. Howard P

          So, you are focusing on how the term “states’ rights”, has ‘morphed’, and some redefined the language, where it means much different than intended/used for hundreds of years… like “gay”, for example.

          I accept that interpretation.  I don’t like it, but perhaps that’s where we are.


        4. Eric Gelber

          Right. Although, this is not a recent development. States’ rights was always used to justify de jure racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. States’ rights was (and still is for many) a euphemism for what the Civil War was fought over, when it was actually fought over the issue of slavery.  It’s now used by the right to justify state laws impacting LGBTQ rights (as with Trump’s transgender bathroom directive), women’s reproductive rights, etc.

  2. David Greenwald

    Another view: “The problem with this framing is that Trump does not have the power to unilaterally change what rights transgender students have.  These rights derive from Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972, that bars discrimination based on gender in publicly funded schools. It was a series of federal court rulings, not the Obama administration’s say-so, that found that protection against gender discrimination extends to trans people.”

  3. John Hobbs

    Having been in countless sports and music venues with inadequate numbers of toilets for women, I have shared bathrooms with hundreds of folks of  different genders. I was not raped and my winkie did not fall off. As I’ve said before, this is a non-issue to anyone without an agenda.

    1. Howard P

      Definitely agree… there is a famous poster, where an apparently female person is using a urinal (photographed from behind)… the guy one urinal over is looking over with a quizzical look on his face… I think if I ran into that, for real, I’d do a “huh?… whatever…”, finish what I came to do, and go on with my day.

      Except for urinals, most “stalls” have doors, and nothing is ‘exposed’ outside the door.  Can’t really see a guy caring if there was a female present in the “men’s room”.  Don’t really understand why a woman would have a problem with a guy who was in the adjacent stall.

      Truly, much ado about nothing.  [Worst case scenario… a little boy and a little girl, using adjacent urinals, and the little boy asks, “what happened to yours?”… even then, perhaps a ‘learning moment’]

  4. Tia Will

    I think that we waste an inordinate amount of time discussing federal rights vs states rights. The more pertinent discussion in my opinion would consider the issue in terms of human rights vs governmental rights regardless of the level of government. Which bathroom an individual chooses to use is an issue of individual rights.

    On a separate but very closely related issue. I know that the majority of people continue to function within a world view that defines gender as binary, you are either a woman or a man. Full stop. Period. End of discussion. However, as an obstetrician, I know that this is not the case. It is rare. But it is real to be born with a condition called “ambiguous genitalia” which means that the delivering physician cannot tell gender by the appearance of the genitalia at birth. It only happened once in my career, but the time did come for me when instead of my usual “You have a beautiful baby boy or girl”, I had to say “You have a beautiful baby who appears very healthy”. When asked the gender, I replied showing the parents the relevant portion of the baby’s anatomy, “we will have to do a little more testing to tell you if the baby is a boy or girl” followed by a lengthy discussion of what such testing might entail while awaiting the arrival of my genetics consultant.

    We now know that “ambiguous genitalia” is not the only situation in which the gender assigned at birth and placed on the birth certificate is not an accurate reflection of how the individual will identify as they grow older. We are not yet medically knowledgeable to know all of the relevant determining factors, but we do know that we do not always get it right when we gender assign at birth. In time, I believe that our society will come to appreciate this ambiguity and respect the self assessment of the individual. We are not there yet, but I believe that in the meantime we should be making our decisions based on factors other than fear of what we do not understand.

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