New Jersey sets guidance for transgender students

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TRENTON -

The New Jersey Department of Education announced Thursday new guidance to help schools provide a supportive environment for transgender students.

The plan addresses areas like privacy, identification, participation and resources.

Jamie Bruesehoff says that her 11-year-old daughter Rebekah is transgender and is a youth activist righting for the rights of her fellow transgender students.

Bruesehoff says that her daughter's activism grew out of last year's move by the Trump administration to rescind federal guidance to schools about transgender rights.

“It was really upsetting to have to look at our daughter at 10 years old at the time and say the administration was saying ‘We don’t have your back. We aren’t going to protect your rights, you’re on your own,’” she says.

RELATED: Gender change on birth certificates now easier in New Jersey
RELATED: NJSIAA implements new rules for transgender high school athletes

New Jersey passes its own laws to protect those rights and now the Department of Education released those guidelines to all schools in the state. 

Under the guidelines, school staff and faculty must recognize a student’s preferred gender identity without parental permission. The staff does not need to notify parents of a student’s gender identity in case they do not have family support.

Faculty must also allow transgender students to dress in a way that matches their gender identity and they must have access to bathrooms and locker rooms that match it.

The school should also use the student’s preferred name and pronoun.

“Which is huge because if a kid goes to school and says ‘I’m going by this name this is who I am’ and then a substitute teacher calls them by a different name it can be traumatic and it outs them over and over again to their peers,” Bruesehoff says.

A transgender student must also be allowed “to participate in intramural and interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”

The guidance was developed after a year of collaborating with experts.

But not everyone is happy with the new rules. The New Jersey Family Policy Council is one of the law's opponents.

The group argues that decisions about who uses which school bathroom should be made at a local level and not decided by the state.

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