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Today is Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Denver Public Schools Protect Transgender Students

by National Transgender Advocacy Coalition

[DENVER, CO] - The Denver Public School System (DPS) recently amended their policy, stating that transgender and gender non-conforming students will be protected under policies unanimously adopted by the school board at its January meeting. The school board voted to add the term "gender identity" to other categories protected under the policy that declares "Equal Educational Opportunities" for students.

The amended policy will read as follows: "All students within this school district regardless of race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity shall be entitled to the benefits of a good education. To secure such benefits, the needs and aspirations of all students shall be considered."

"We were able to convince the school board that since the Denver City Council had passed an ordinance that included transgender people in anti-discrimination policies in 2001, that transgender students in DPS should not be [covered by the city's non- discrimination ordinance] on the streets of Denver, but lose that protection once they walk through the doors of their schools," said local transgender activist, Zia Klamm. "This was the real force in our presentation," added Klamm, who volunteers for Rainbow Alley Youth Center in Denver. "They really got this."

"We made a promise four years ago to get this done," said Keith Lucero of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Education Advisory Council (LGBTEAC), "and now we've finally fulfilled that promise."

"Transgender student safety in schools is a critical problem across the nation - one that virtually no district in the country will recognize, much less address," sai d Vanessa Edwards Foster, the chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC). "Far too often, students whose gender doesn't conform are mercilessly harassed, threatened and assaulted, resulting in a pandemic drop-out rate among transgenders.

"I grew up in a Denver suburb and by middle school I was harassed and physically attacked, sometimes as a daily event," related Klamm, also an LGBTEAC member. Another Denver suburb was the subject of intense media attention when two students from Columbine High School - themselves targets of unchecked harassment - snapped and reacted violently to years of abuse.

"When I asked for help, adults told me it was my fault for these attacks because I didn't 'act normal.' I did not know any other way to act," Klamm added. "By adding gender identity to the school policy, my hope is that other kids will not have to go through the kind of harassment that I experienced" she said.

"The Denver Schools policy change shows a commitment to ensuring that education of all its students is paramount," added Foster of NTAC. "A safe learning environment is key to that."

The LGBTEAC worked with advisors to DPS as well as lawyers from the Colorado Legal initiatives Project (CLIP), for the past two years on developing policies and protections for those students whose gender expression is not traditional. NTAC praises both LGBTEAC and the Denver Public Schools for valorizing education for all students in Denver.

LGBTEAC contributes to district aims to improve student achievement, and to help provide a safe nurturing environment, which all students need in order to learn and thrive.

Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a 501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transg endered, intersexed, and gender- variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.

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