In June and July, New York State and City announced two important changes to laws and regulations governing the rights of transgender youth. The first, a guideline from the New York State Education Department, affects the treatment of transgender youth in school. The second, a guideline from the City of New York Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) primarily acts to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act for New York City’s juvenile detention centers.
The guidance published by the New York State Education Department synthesize existing state and federal case law to provide general guidelines on how to effectively, professionally, and legally insure access to education for transgender students. Most importantly, the guidance does not require any medical or mental health diagnosis in order for a school to recognized a preferred gender identity. Many of the recommendations provide examples to administrators on how to keep an out trans child’s birth identity confidential as well as how to keep a child’s identity as being trans or gender non-conforming confidential if they are not out to their birth families or other educators. Of particular importance is the section of the guidance concerning bathroom use.
The policy from ACS begins the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act within New York City’s Juvenile Facilities and expands upon Policy #2012/01 Promoting a Safe and Respectful Environment for LGBTQ Youth and Their Families Involved with the Child Welfare, Detention, and Juvenile Justice System.
While these changes and clarifications in policy are mostly beneficial to trans, gender non-conforming, and intersex youth held within youth detention centers, SRLP continues to maintain that youth detention centers are not beneficial to any youth or to the families and communities they come from. According to our allies at the Correctional Association’s Juvenile Justice Project, “too often, the youth justice system contributes to a vicious cycle of poverty and incarceration that primarily affects communities of color … In contrast, community-based supervision programs have proven to increase positive life outcomes for youth and reduce recidivism.”
While the policy is quite expansive, some of the most notable parts for trans, gender non-conforming, and intersex youth are highlighted below:
- youth in Juvenile Detention shall have the right to request a pat-frisk or strip search to be conducted by staff of a particular gender identity;
- all detention staff shall have an initial and then a biannual refresher training on (amongst other topics) understanding how histories of trauma effect how young people react to other situations and how to professionally talk with LGBT, intersex, and gender non-conforming youth. All such trainings will have documented attendance sheets and their will be documentation that individuals understood the trainings;
- an LGBTQ identity shall never be used as an indicator of a likelihood of sexually abusive behavior; and
- housing in Juvenile Detention should occur based upon trans* and intersex youths’ individual needs and emotional and physical safety and the presumed placement will be in line with the youth’s lived gender identity.