Gov. Christie OKs Law to Give Schools Transgender Policy Guidance

Image: Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks Monday, July 3, 2017, in Trenton, N.J.Mel Evans / AP
By Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday requiring the state's Department of Education to provide guidance to public schools about policies for transgender students.

The law seeks to ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory learning environment for transgender students by providing guidance on using a student's preferred name and pronoun — to be reflected on the student's identification card — and blocking schools from forcing students to use bathrooms that conflict with their gender identities unless "reasonable alternative arrangements" are provided.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks Monday, July 3, 2017, in Trenton, N.J.Mel Evans / AP

The bill, first introduced in March, was passed by the Democrat-led Legislature after school districts around the state began passing their own rules to address access to bathrooms by transgender students. Last year, the New Jersey Department of Education said that districts should pass individual policies to explain how they handle gender identity issues, but didn't suggest what they should say. Christie's latest motion directs Kimberly Harrington, New Jersey Commissioner of Education, to draft and disseminate specific guidelines that aid the districts' policy-making.

The civil rights group Garden State Equality applauded the Republican governor for signing the measure saying that Christie took a stand for LGBTQ youth.

"These guidelines are needed to ensure that transgender students can safely be themselves without fear of being persecuted, and can help promote a culture of understanding and acceptance that will hopefully influence how students treat each other in and outside of school," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, one of the Democratic sponsors of the measure.

Related: Minnesota Department of Education Approves Transgender ‘Toolkit’

Among the requirements of the law is that Harrington share guidance on allowing students to participate in gender-segregated activities in accordance with their gender identities, creating "confidentiality plans" that protect students' transgender or transitioning status and providing professional development opportunities to staff regarding LGBTQ issues.

On Friday, Christie also signed a bill that prohibits health insurers, certain health providers and Medicaid from discriminating against anyone based on gender identity.

Garden State Equality's director, Christian Fuscarino, posted a Photoshopped image of Christie on a beach with a gay pride flag. It was a riff on the viral meme of Christie after he went to a beach closed by a government shutdown, but Fuscarino says that Christie is "welcome to join us on the gay beach."

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Medardo Perez contributed.