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Why US schools are at the center of trans rights

A civil rights battle with transgender kids caught in the middle.

Laura Bult came to the video team via Vox’s Netflix show, Explained , and previously worked on documentary series for National Geographic and Zero Point Zero Production.

In the past few years, an increasing number of state bills introduced in Republican legislatures have targeted the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Some of those laws are focused on what rights transgender school children have in public schools: what types of bathrooms they can use in school, whether their pronouns will be used, or whether they can participate in school sports.

The fight over school policy affecting LGBTQ students in states with anti-trans laws on the books puts schools in a difficult position: do schools follow federal civil rights laws that, under the Biden administration, obligate public schools not to discriminate based on gender identity? Or do they follow state laws which instruct them to discriminate against trans and nonbinary students? This legal gray area sets a trap for school districts that either makes them vulnerable to state funding cuts or a federal civil rights investigation. And those who suffer most are the trans children caught up in the fight.

This video focuses on how this legal battle is playing out in Tennessee, a state that has introduced more anti-LGBTQ laws than any other state this year. We cover two of the laws that target transgender public school kids: one about bathrooms and one about participation in school sports.

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