Christie Signs Law to Set School Transgender Policies on Restrooms, Pronouns, Dress
TRENTON — New Jersey becomes the 11th state to offer public schools guidance on crafting policies for transgender students.
Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed legislation that requires the commissioner of education to provide districts with guidelines for policies dealing with usage of restrooms that correspond to students' expressed gender identity, identifying students by their preferred pronouns and letting students dress according to their gender identity, among other issues.
“This is a huge victory for equality in New Jersey, and we want to send a big thank you to Gov. Christie for standing on the right side of history on this one,” Garden State Equality, a civil rights organization that advocated for the legislation, said Friday in a statement.
“As he did with the conversion therapy ban, Gov. Christie took a stand for LGBT youth in New Jersey by signing this important legislation, and he deserves our thanks.”
Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino on Friday shared a meme featuring Christie's infamous beach chair photo, with the comment that Christie is "welcome to join us on the gay beach."
The law comes after numerous school districts across the state crafted their own policies. The bill was introduced in Trenton a month after President Donald Trump’s administration lifted Obama-era federal guidelines designed to protect transgender students. Republicans said policies should be designed at a state level.
North Carolina has been the only state to ban transgender people from using a bathroom that did not correspond to their assigned gender at birth, but lawmakers reversed course earlier this year after national backlash. The state’s new law, however, prohibits local governments from setting their own nondiscrimination policies.
On Friday, a federal lawsuit challenged North Carolina’s law, calling it ambiguous and saying that it left transgender people without knowing which public restrooms they are legally allowed to use.
In New Jersey, the new law does not spell out what the policies will be, but requires the education commissioner to provide districts with guidance on the following:
— Setting definitions of terms relevant to an understanding of transgender issues;
— Preventing discrimination and harassment;
— Protecting confidentiality and privacy concerns;
— Maintaining official school records;
— Use of the name and pronoun that corresponds to a student’s gender identity;
— Issuing school IDs in the name that corresponds to a student’s gender identity
— Permitting transgender students to dress in accordance with their gender identity;
— Equal opportunities in physical education;
— Participation in gender-segregated school activities in accordance with a student’s gender identity;
— Use of restrooms and locker rooms;
— Ensuring that school counselors are knowledgeable regarding issues and concerns relevant to transgender students;
— Permitting and supporting the formation of student clubs regarding LGBTQ youth issues.
The law also requires the commissioner to provide districts with guidance and resources on providing training for administrators and staff and providing age-appropriate pamphlets or books regarding LGBTQ issues in libraries and nurse's offices.
The law was passed by the Assembly 59 to 15 and the state Senate 25 to 10.
Associated Press contributed to this report.