Though the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district includes sexual orientation and gender in its anti-discrimination policy, there aren’t similar protections for gender identity.
The report, published by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, released research data for 29 states as part of the biennial 2013 National School Climate Survey the network conducts.
The group found that while “nearly all” of the North Carolina students surveyed knew a staff member supportive of LGBT students, only 8 percent attended a school with an anti-bullying policy including both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The U.S. Department of Education released guidelines in April clarifying that Title IX sex discrimination protections apply to transgender students.
Maddy Boesen, a research associate for the group, said researchers surveyed nearly 200 students in North Carolina with the help of local groups like the LGBT Center of Raleigh and through Facebook and Twitter.
“Overall, trans students often face extra layers of challenges in school, so many of them have experienced higher levels of harassment,” Boesen said.
Nancy Kueffer, coordinator for compliance/behavior support for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said that while CHCCS does not have specific policies for transgender students, the district implements a bullying response program that aims to prevent bullying of all forms.
“In terms of students who are feeling threatened or bullied because they are transgender students, they still would follow the process that any other students would,” she said.
Danielle Cohen, a teacher at Chapel Hill High School and adviser of the school’s Queer-Straight Alliance, said several students from the school noticed earlier this year that the district’s anti-discrimination policy did not include gender identity.
She said the students petitioned the school board in the spring to change the policy, asking for gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms.
She said the board has followed up with the petitioners and that the students met with CHCCS Superintendent Thomas Forcella last week.
Kueffer said teachers are trained annually on specifics of the district anti-bullying policy.
“It’s usually out of ignorance that the empathy isn’t built (among students),” she said.
School athletics have also been a topic of debate — and the N.C. High School Athletic Association in April decided that students must participate in sports based on the gender they were assigned on their birth certificate.
Jeffrey Reilly, CHCCS coordinator of student services, said in an email that the district will review the possibility of a policy covering transgender students in sports.
Nationwide, the report surveyed nearly 8,000 LGBT students in all 50 states and found that more than 70 percent of LGBT students said they had been verbally harassed and more than 35 percent said they had been physically harassed.
Still, Boesen said there were brighter notes in the report — it found a significant increase in students who reported reading about LGBT issues in class readings and textbooks.
“There are some very simple education efforts that educators can make to both protect transgender students and overall improve their school communities,” Boesen said.