Northwestern administrators review policies as Title IX is extended to transgender students

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

Although Northwestern policies have protected students from discrimination against gender identity since 2009, NU administrators are reviewing these policies following a new federal guidance document that explicitly states that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity.

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education released the document Tuesday with guidelines regarding educational institutions’ obligations under Title IX. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the document is the first to explicitly discuss the protections Title IX provides to transgender students.

“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation,” the OCR said in the guidance document.”Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations.”

Sarah Brown, a senior equal employment opportunity specialist, said NU’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment prohibits discrimination on 16 categories, which include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“Although Northwestern’s policies already cover the transgender community, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access is reviewing the recent guidance by the Office of Civil Rights to determine if any policy revisions are necessary,” she said in an email.

Title IX Coordinator Joan Slavin said the Title IX Coordinating Committee is also reviewing their policies to see if any changes are needed.

Devin Moss, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said OCR’s guidance serves to clarify existing policies.

“There’s not just University backing. There’s a wider backing to ensure people are safe and have the ability to live life just like anyone else in regards to their gender identity and expression which I love,” he said. “Now it’s time for people to live up to these polices of inclusion and making sure there is space for trans and gender nonconformity individuals to exist within all aspects of our community.”

Moss added the document has implications beyond just college campuses.

“I do think this a really great thing on campus but also in society as a whole in order to protect individuals to make sure everyone has the same safe experiences to the best of our ability,” he said.

NU is also making efforts to improve the experiences of transgender students on campus.

(Northwestern community evaluates culture, resources for transgender students)

A gender-neutral locker room is being added to the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center as part of renovations that will be completed this fall. Associated Student Government and the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee have also been working with administrators to look at adding gender-neutral bathrooms to University Library and Mudd Science and Engineering Library.

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