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Local School Districts Receive Federal Guidance On Transgender Students

May 13, 2016

Tampa Bay area school districts have received an Obama administration directive regarding transgender students.

A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice calls for every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

How that applies locally varies.

In Sarasota County, following debates and protests, the district said one school could allow students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. The move followed a request by a specific student at Pine View School -- a magnet program serving grades two through twelve.

A district spokesman says that policy is not districtwide but is handled on a case-by-case basis. Sarasota County School District released a statement saying administrators are aware of the document from the Obama administration about transgender students.

"District and school administrators in the Sarasota County Schools have responded and will continue to respond on a case-by-case basis to circumstances regarding individual transgender students," the statement said. 

Pinellas and Polk counties also review on a case by case basis.

In a statement, the Pinellas County School District wrote, "Pinellas County Schools respects and values the individual needs of our students. To that end, the District works on a case-by-case basis with transgender students and their families to make reasonable accommodations."

Hillsborough County Schools already lists gender identity protection in its districtwide nondiscrimination policy.

In an interview before the federal directive, Hillsborough School Board President April Griffin said the district is now considering adding gender expression to the list.

“Because we're in an ever changing world," she said. "And we've got to make sure that our students feel safe and comfortable when they're in school."

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the change in June.

The federal guidance does not impose any new legal requirements. But officials say it's meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government.