Transgender and Non-Binary Student Statement History
Like many schools across the country, Chapin has taken steps to address how a broadened understanding of gender affects the daily lives of our community members, especially our students. According to research from the Williams Institute, recent studies suggest that 1 in every 137 American teenagers identifies as transgender. While transgender and non-binary youth demonstrate a greatly elevated risk of depression and suicide attempts, research from the University of Texas at Austin found that those risks drop considerably when affirming names are used at school and at home. Reports from Cornell University found that transgender and non-binary students who feel supported in their school communities experience greater quality of life and self-esteem alongside decreased anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidality.
A truly affirming school creates a welcoming learning environment for students who are transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming – as well as for family members, staff, and faculty who may identify similarly. By proactively working to create an environment that is affirming of all genders, Chapin can help decrease the stigma, isolation and rejection – and the related negative social, emotional and educational outcomes –transgender people experience at non-supportive schools.
As part of Chapin’s ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion work, in Spring 2016 the school commenced a three-year partnership with the Transgender Training Institute (TTI). TTI is a trans-owned training and consulting company that provides national trainings and consulting services that are facilitated and/or informed by transgender and non-binary individuals, for the benefit of transgender and non-binary people and communities. TTI is a certified LGBT Business Enterprise through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and has supported the equity and inclusion efforts of multiple independent schools across the nation.
TTI worked with Chapin’s administrative team to establish the following goals:
- Chapin’s professional community members have a strong foundational understanding of diverse gender identities and experiences, particularly as it relates to the identities and experiences of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming youth.
- All of Chapin’s professional community fully understands their value and responsibilities toward creating and participating in a fully transgender affirming environment.
- Chapin’s professional community members have ample skills and strategies for creating and maintaining a school environment that is fully affirming of all youth, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
- Chapin’s professional community members are prepared to implement individual best practices when working with members of the school community who are transgender (students, colleagues, and transgender family members).
- Chapin’s policies and procedures proactively affirm the specific and unique rights and needs of transgender students and professional community members.
- Chapin’s physical environment (such as signs, artwork on display, posters in classrooms, etc.) visibly and proactively affirms transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students, professional community members, and family members.
- Chapin’s curriculum reflects and honors the lived experiences of people of all gender identities and expressions, with particular attention to intersectionality and racial equity.
- Chapin’s admissions procedures, publicity, and alumnae relations include positive messaging around supporting and affirming all students regardless of their gender identity or expression, and proactively welcome students and/or family members who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.
- Chapin’s support staff, such as school psychologists and college counselors, are attuned to the specific emotional, psychological, social and logistical challenges that transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students face in school, at home, in their communities, and during the college applications process.
- Chapin’s hiring practices and human resources practices utilizes community-informed best practices that support and encourage the hiring of qualified professional community members who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, in addition to ensuring that all newly hired professional community members are well prepared to participate in a fully affirming school environment. These also ensure that Chapin is in full compliance with applicable state and federal laws.
Between 2016-2018, TTI provided in-depth training to more than 160 members of the Chapin community, including Chapin’s board of trustees, administrative team, all members of K-12 faculty, and members of non-academic departments that interact with Chapin students and families. TTI also participated in three informational programs offered to Chapin parents. Following the dedicated trainings, TTI conducted several focus groups with over 60 Chapin community members, including students and parents.
As a result of these trainings and conversations, the Chapin community was prepared to:
- Update language in our documents to better include our transgender and non-binary community members
- Discuss gender identity and gender stereotypes with students of all ages
- Request and use affirming names and pronouns for all students
- Provide physical education, health courses, and humanities units that reflect the needs and experiences of transgender and non-binary people
In November 2018, Chapin’s Board of Trustees supported a formal statement on transgender and non-binary applicants and current students, asserting that no students will be asked to leave the school upon gender transition. In the Spring of 2019, this statement was emailed to the professional community, the parent community, the student community, and was added to the school website. New members of the professional community will receive training and resources on gender identity as part of their onboarding experience each Fall.