Transgender students face harassment despite anti-bullying law

Jul 3, 2015

Transgender students in New York continue to face harassment and discrimination at school, according to a recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union. That’s despite a five-year-old anti-bullying law called the Dignity for All Students act, or DASA.

The law bans discrimination based on a whole list of characteristics, including race, religion, gender and gender identity. But when it passed in 2010, the social climate was different.

“There was, when DASA was passed, less visibility among transgender students,” says Melanie LeMay, who works at Binghamton's Identity center for LGBTQ youth. “Maybe people thought [the law] didn’t apply to transgender students.”

LeMay says many schools don’t take any action to accommodate transgender youth. She says that’s especially likely if a student’s parents aren’t on board.

“If there’s no parent saying, ‘You must treat my child as the gender that she identifies with,’ then a school is more likely to ignore the rights and needs of that student,” LeMay says.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded a response to the report from the state education department. The department says it needs more money to enforce the law, a request Cuomo and the legislature have denied.