Transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. This category includes K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Courts, as well as the United States Department of Education, have interpreted the ban on sex discrimination as inclusive of banning discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming students. You should be aware that religious schools can claim an exemption, and these exemptions have been granted at a handful of universities to date.
Rights Covered Under Title IX
At covered schools, your rights under Title IX include: a right not to be bullied or harassed on the basis of your gender identity; a right to present an outward appearance in a way that is consistent with your gender identity as long as you are following dress code rules that apply to all students; a right to equal educational opportunities regardless of your gender identity; a right to use restrooms in a way that is consistent with your gender identification (including not being required to use restrooms that are separated from other members of the student body); and you have a right to privacy with respect to your transgender status and any details associated with your ongoing gender transition.
You cannot be excluded from school activities because you are transgender. You also have the right to form or join a group based on your gender identity and that group must be treated in the same manner as other student groups at your school. If you are attending college or a boarding school that receives federal funding, you also have the right to be placed in campus housing that aligns with your gender identity.
Certain educational institutions, such as all-women's colleges, are allowed to admit students of only one sex. However, under Title IX, single sex institutions must treat transgender students consistently with their gender identity.
Changing Student Records
The information in your student education records is supposed to be kept private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law gives parents certain rights, but these transfer to the student after the student turns 18 or starts attending a post-secondary school. Students can request an amendment of their school records if they are inaccurate, misleading, or in any way violate the student's rights of privacy.
Under FERPA, you can request a change in your name and gender marker on school records. A school that refuses to change your name and gender marker is outing you to those who examine the records, and consequently violating your privacy. If an educational institution does not give parents or students a hearing process to challenge the school records or offer them an opportunity to correct inaccurate or misleading data, it will not be granted federal funding.
State and Local Laws
In addition to Title IX, you may be protected by state or local laws that regulate public accommodations or oversee instances of bullying. For example, California has an anti-bullying law, called the School Success and Opportunities Act. These types of laws require a student's gender identity to be respected.
The issue of whether transgender students have the right to use the restroom that is associated with their gender identity at schools has been litigated in several states. The Maine Supreme Court has found that forcing a transgender student to use a separate restroom was discrimination under state law. Similarly, the Colorado Department of Civil Rights determined that forcing a child to use a nurse's restroom due to her gender identity created an environment that was hostile, offensive, and intimidating.