(San Francisco, CA, August 12, 2013)—Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the historic School Success and Opportunity Act into law, ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in schools across the state. Assembly Bill 1266—which goes into effect on January 1, 2014—was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and passed the California State Senate and Assembly earlier this summer. The law is the first of its kind in the country. It requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can have equal access to all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities.
“I’m so excited that California is making sure transgender students have a fair chance to graduate and succeed,” said Calen Valencia, an 18-year-old transgender student from Tulare. “I should have graduated this year, but my school refused to give me the same opportunity to succeed as other boys. Now other transgender youth won’t have to choose between being themselves and graduating high school.”
Co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the bill is backed by a coalition of leading organizations, including National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California, Gender Spectrum, Transgender Law Center, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.
The new law builds on a national movement to end discriminatory practices and ensure transgender youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other students. Massachusetts and Colorado have statewide policies in line with AB 1266, and the Colorado and Maine state human rights commissions have held that state law requires schools to respect students’ gender identity. Additionally, many school districts across the country have adopted policies that ensure no student is left out, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district.
California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students have been often discriminated against and unfairly excluded from school facilities and physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education credits are required to graduate, but transgender students often do not have the support they need to fully participate in the courses.
The supporting organizations are truly appreciative of Gov. Brown’s efforts to protect LGBT Californians and ensure all students have the opportunity to excel in our public education system. From his support to ban harmful sexual orientation change efforts to his leadership on marriage equality to his signing of AB 1266, Gov. Brown has sent a powerful message to LGBT youth letting them know their state and their government fully support them. In so doing, he is not only changing, but also saving lives.
Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “We are grateful to Governor Brown for his longstanding commitment to ensuring that all California students are able to attend school without discrimination or harassment. By signing AB 1266, he has made that commitment real for transgender students, who will now have the same opportunities to participate and to succeed as other students.”
Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 415.365.1324, EOlvera@NCLRights.org
Rebecca Farmer, ACLU of California, 415.621.2493, x374, RFarmer@ACLUNC.org
Jesse Melgar, Equality California, 323.848.9801, Jesse@EQCA.org
Jill Marcellus, GSA Network, 516.313.9659, Jill@GSANetwork.org
Mark Snyder, Transgender Law Center, 415.865.0176, x310, Mark@TransgenderLawCenter.org