ACLU-NJ and GSE urge 16 New Jersey school districts to readopt trans policy guidelines

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Stock photo of a classroom. Students interact with each other, raising their hands. There are about 11 studnets of mixed races and ethnicities in a white room, with bright windows and colorful flags hanging over head.
Photo by Ron Lach for Pexels

The ACLU of New Jersey and Garden State Equality (GSE) sent letters to 16 school districts that have abolished Policy 5756. The letter urges the 16 school districts to readopt the transgender guidance policy. This is in an effort to “safeguard the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth” in schools and at home. Additionally, so schools “meet their responsibilities to transgender students under federal and state law,” said the lettter. 

The letter said school districts and administrators leave LGBTQ students, teachers, and their peers “without clear guidance of the law.” This, consequently, opens their districts to legal liability, said the press release. ACLU-NJ and GSE state “most alarmingly” the abolishment of Policy 5756 sends a message to LGBTQ students and families that their schools are a “less safe and welcoming environment.”

Together, the organizations sent letters to Colts Neck, Freehold, Franklin Lakes, Holmdel, Howell, Lacey, Lafayette, Millstone, Old Bridge, Ramapo Indian Hills, Roxbury, Sparta, Sussex-Wantage, Union Township (Hunterdon County), Vineland, and Washington Township.

“School administrators must do everything they can to protect trans kids. As LGBTQ+ rights face renewed threats across the country, New Jersey has a responsibility to lead by example and ensure that students in our state feel safe, supported, and respected. We’re calling on these school districts to immediately readopt Policy 5756,” ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Elyla Huertas said.

Policy 5756 originated in former Gov. Chris Christie’s second term in 2017, Gov. Murphy’s administration in 2018 reiterated the statutory and constitutional protections for LGBTQ people and youth. This led to the adoption of Policy 5756 by a majority of the nearly 600 school districts throughout the state to help navigate their responsibilities under the law. 

The policy to protect transgender students comes from studies showing that LGBTQ youth are far more likely to be bullied and harassed at school, to be alienated from their families and communities, and to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation as a result of this bullying and harassment. 

“All of the data show affirming schools are a lifeline for LGBTQ+ students,” said Lauren Albrecht, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for GSE. “So when schools don’t know — or outright reject research-backed, educator-approved, and, until recently, uncontroversial guidelines for — how to meet the well-documented needs of these students, it isn’t hyperbole to say lives are at risk.”

Last month, along with the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, the ACLU-NJ and GSE filed amicus briefs which offer support in legal cases brought on by the New Jersey Attorney General. The AG’s office has enforced the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by filing lawsuits against three Monmouth County school districts that adopted “forced outing” policies. These policies require school staff to out transgender students to their parents or guardians. Those cases are currently pending appeal in state court.

Lana Leonard
Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.