California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the historic School Success and Opportunity Act into law yesterday, ensuring that transgender youth will 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 gay 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, and requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs and facilities that match their gender identity.
Prior to the law’s passage, transgender students were excluded from physical education, athletic teams and other school activities and facilities if their gender identity didn’t match their biological gender. Physical education classes, for example, help students develop healthy fitness habits and teach values like teamwork and fair competition – and count toward graduation as much as any other course. This exclusion had a negative impact on students’ ability to succeed and graduate with their class.
“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, who was bullied at school by other students as well as unsympathetic administrators. “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 Transgender Law Center, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, Equality California, ACLU of California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.
“I am so proud of [California] and its leaders. On behalf of Transgender Law Center and the many youth and families we serve, I extend our deepest gratitude to the Governor, Assembly and Senate for the passage and signing of this bill,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates.”