By Brianna Patt
With Black trans youth more likely to experience anxiety, depression or to seriously consider attempting suicide, the continued repression of trans rights in the school system is adding to its own school to prison pipeline.
March 1, 2022 the American Civil Liberties Union Announced that Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed Texas’ Child Protective Services to investigate the parents of children , specifically when those children appear to be receiving gender affirming care. While this action ultimately led to families relocating to a safer environment, it was just one in a line of events that seek to ostracize and hyperfixate upon trans children. That hyperfixation extends into their day to day education, which can be detrimental.
Disciplinary actions such as schools’ zero tolerance policies which can punish LGBTQ+ youth for violating dress code, or as Out4MentalHealth also points out, result in unfair punitive action being doled out to them.
“LGBTQ youth face unfair punitive action for violating sexuality and gender norms at school. This can include receiving punishment for violating gendered school dress code policies, or engaging in adolescent behaviors for which their non-LGBTQ peers are not disciplined.” – Out4MentalHealth
According to GLSEN, 51% of Black trans youth (during their K-12 education, either out or perceived as trans) have experienced verbal abuse, 28% have been physically attacked and 19% have been sexually assaulted. 22% ultimately left school due to their mistreatment. In other instances, the bullying and mistreatment of trans people can cause them to be pushed to a school to prison pipeline.
As GLSEN states, Black trans youth are more likely to face disciplinary action (47% of Black LGBTQ youth faced disciplinary action compared to 36% of White/European youth). In a paper by Meryl Green titled “LGBTQ Youth of Color in the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Freedom, Liberation, and Resistance”, she argues that evidence suggests that due to the unfair treatment due to double marginalization of trans youth, they are more likely to utilize violence to defend themselves against the bullying they endure, which can lead to something Vanessa Panfil calls, a “Gang Double Bind.”
“LGBTQ youth of color engage in violence in order to prevent their own victimization in the future, and in doing so, their involvement in such violence only increases their vulner-ability to additional violence both through gang activity and at the hands of the juvenile justice system. In this context, LGBTQ students of color are placed at a significant disadvantage in schools, as they are often victimized and then subsequently pu-nitively disciplined for fighting back against their abusers when school administrators and teachers fail to intervene on their behalf,” Green states.
Putting an End to the Pipeline
So, with the increased likelihood that Black trans children will be more subjected to the school to prison pipeline, what can be done to counteract this dangerous path?
Green suggests utilizing different “pedagogies,” (or learning methods), specifically changing what we perceive as a criminal in our heads.
“To educationally address the factors driving the criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color is to change the cultural dialogue around the ways in which we construct “the criminal” in our heads. Moreover, given that neoliberalism sustains itself upon the ideals of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy, a counter movement in education that is critically analytical of race, class, gender, and sexuality is long overdue,” Green says.
With anti-critical race theory and anti-LGBTQ bills sorrounding schools being written and passed in Texas it may be a bit difficult. But, parents of trans children when they are able to, cracking down on the discrimination trans people endure. For instance, in Sherman, Texas reversed a decision to remove a trans teen from a musical production of “Oklahoma!“ after their decision was condemned by numerous speakers.
In 2022 the ACLU also created the Student Rights Hub, which currently serves as a place for parents, teachers and kids alike to learn what is happening in Texas schools and inform them about student rights.
“To thrive in our diverse state, students must be taught an accurate history of our country and learn about the experiences of many different communities. Our new Students’ Rights Hub will provide resources to support students’ ability to learn and access a range of ideas free from discrimination.”
The site also tracks dress codes, censorship and a list of ways for Texas parents and students alike to advocate. To learn more about trans students rights, click here.