Oregon Laws and Guidelines Relevant to LGBTQ Students
Disclaimer: The following text is a summary of Oregon laws (i.e. statutes) and educational guidelines pertaining to LGBTQ students. The following text is a bona fide attempt to accurately summarize, where possible, Oregon statutes and guidelines as reflected in the Oregon Department of Education memorandum issued on May 5th, 2016 titled “Guidance to School Districts: Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment for Transgender Students.” All citations below refer to that memorandum. This document is not a comprehensive list of relevant laws, and guidelines. It is also not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, a comprehensive summary of relevant laws and guidelines. For a more comprehensive analysis, please consult the actual memorandum. No text in this document is legal advice, nor should any of it be either interpreted as or relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please consult an attorney.
The following text summarizes two legally binding laws that govern what public schools in Oregon cannot do. These laws protect students by prohibiting public schools from unreasonably acting in a discriminatory manner. The sections pertaining specifically to sexual orientation are what is summarized below.
ORS 659.850(2): It is illegal for any public elementary or secondary school to discriminate against a child on the basis of sexual orientation.
ORS 174.100: Oregon defines sexual orientation as “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity.” A person’s sex at birth, or sex as identified by a government document (e.g. birth certificate, driver’s license) does NOT factor into this definition.
The following guidelines come from Governor Kate Brown via the Office Oregon Department of Education and the Office of the Deputy Superintendent. These are recommendations and outlines of best practices rather than pieces of legally binding legislation. Public elementary and secondary schools are NOT obligated to meet these criteria so long as they comply with all relevant laws.
NOTE: While President Trump withdrew recently established federal guidelines protecting transgender students, Oregon had previously issued its own guidelines concerning educational practices and transgender students, and these guidelines remain in effect today.
Terminology: a good general guideline is to use the term or terms that a student uses to describe themselves (p. 2).
For a list of terms and definitions commonly used by research, advocacy and governmental organizations, please consult pp. 2-3 of the memorandum.
Gender Identity: school districts are advised to accept however a student chooses to self-identify. If a student says she is a girl, the school should respect and treat her as it would any other girl. The same is true for a student saying he is a boy (p. 4).
NOTE: This is NOT mentioned in the memorandum, but a student who self-identifies as gender non-binary should be treated and respected to the same extent as any gender binary student.
Management of Student Identity in School Documents and Records: A student’s transgender identity should be kept confidential. Generally, only school employees “determined to have legitimate educational interests” can access a student’s records or information within those records.
Improperly disclosing information of this sort may constitute violations of the Family Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Oregon law (pp. 6-7).
Preferred Names: “when a transgender student new to a school is using a preferred name [that differs from their birth name], the birth name should be kept confidential by school district staff” (p. 7).
Graduation: Transcripts and Diplomas: It is recommended best practice to provide graduating transgender students with two diplomas and two sets of transcripts: one with the legal first name and one with the preferred first name (p. 8).
Student Health Records: Except when necessary “to ensure the health and safety of the student,” a school nurse should “use the transgender student’s preferred name and identified gender” (p. 8).
Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Courses that discuss human sexuality in public elementary and secondary schools “shall enhance students’ understanding of sexuality as a normal and healthy aspect of human development.”
“Importantly, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) includes healthy sexuality and violence prevention instruction; it emphasizes dignity and respect for all; and validation for all individual and peer differences. Medically accurate, age appropriate, inclusive CSE is a tool to support student understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation diversity (p. 9).”
Restroom and Locker Usage: It is recommended that schools provide alternative accommodations, such as private changing area or a single “unisex” bathroom, to students who request them. These accommodations, however, should “[NEITHER] be forced upon students, [NOR] should they be presented as the only option.”
Excluding a student “from participation in and denying [them] the benefits of its education program, providing services to [them] in a different manner, subjecting [them] to different rules of behavior, and subjecting [them] to different treatment on the basis of sex” is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (a.k.a. Title IX) (as cited in p. 10).
Student Safety: Oregon law requires all school districts to “adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying and prohibiting cyberbullying.” This includes any such acts against LGBTQ students (p. 12).
Brown, K. (2016). Guidance to School Districts: Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment for Transgender Students. Salem, OR. Office of the Deputy Superintendent.