Reston, VA — On behalf of the nation’s middle level and high school principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) expresses its gratitude to the White House and the U.S. Department of Education for their recent guidance on the treatment of transgender students in schools. We are proud that the guidance is already a reality in many schools and a sincere aspiration in others. The guidance from the Obama administration reaffirms that school leaders are on the right path and renews their charge to maintain the dignity of each student in the school. School leaders see the treatment of transgender students through the lens of equity. The principal’s most important role is to create a climate and culture in which each student feels valued—so we can build each student’s human potential.
Transgender students are already at high risk for suicide and other destructive behaviors. The new Professional Standards for Education Leaders 2015—the standards which govern practice in school leadership—provides a clear expectation of our response to this reality: to confront and alter all biases that lead to student marginalization, including gender identification. Those standards provide the foundation for a position statement the NASSP Board of Directors adopted just last week in support of transgender students’ rights and in opposition to laws that deny them. While some statehouses see a political issue, we see the faces of our kids who suffer alienation each day. We seek ways to embrace these marginalized students, even as some state policies push them further to the margins.
Indeed, there are structural obstacles to overcome. We don’t have buildings that accommodate gender-neutral facilities. We don’t have nearly enough counselors, school psychologists, and other mental health professionals to help transgender students be successful in a culture that is often hostile toward them. There are countless reasons we could declare it impractical to address the needs of transgender students. None of those obstacles excuse us from doing the right thing. Instead, we have to bend conditions and structures toward the right goal and advocate to make possible what now seems impractical. That is the message of the Obama administration’s guidance, and it is a message that school leaders readily accept.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high-quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.