Guidelines on Gender Inclusion

It is the policy of the New York City Department of Education ( DOE) to maintain a safe and supportive learning and educational environment that is free of harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying and free of discrimination because of actual or perceived race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, or weight. Such discrimination, harassment, intimidation and/or bullying is prohibited in school, during school hours, before or after school, while traveling in vehicles funded by the DOE and on other than school property when such behavior disrupts or would disrupt the educational process or endangers or would endanger the health, safety, morality, or welfare of the school community.

These guidelines are intended to help schools implement gender-inclusive curricula, programs, activities, and practices that are consistent with this policy and with the DOE’s commitment to equity and access. Schools must be mindful that inappropriate gender segregation may result in isolating students, hindering diversity, and/or perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Dress Codes

Schools may develop dress codes in accordance with the DOE Dress Code Guidelines, and in compliance with applicable federal, state, and city laws and regulations.

Dress codes must be gender neutral, free of gender stereotypes, and applied equally to all students regardless of gender. Dress codes may not prohibit a specific gender from wearing particular attire. A school cannot require gender-specific attire for DOE- or school-sponsored programs or activities.

  • For example, dress codes may not: prohibit students who identify as male from wearing skirts, jewelry, or nail polish, require only students who identify as male to wear neck ties for yearbook photos, or require only students who identify as female to wear dresses at graduation.

Schools also may not prohibit “distracting” clothing or certain types of clothing that is stereotypically associated with one gender.

  • For example, dress codes may not only prohibit miniskirts or camisole tank tops, which are predominantly worn by students who identify as female.
  • As an alternative, schools may prohibit all students from wearing revealing clothing that does not provide full coverage of private body parts.

Schools that adopt a uniform policy instead of a dress code must do so consistent with Chancellor’s Regulation A-665.

Schools may develop dress codes in accordance with the DOE Dress Code Guidelines, and in compliance with applicable federal, state, and city laws and regulations.

Choruses

Schools may not presumptively create single-gender choruses but may use gender-neutral requirements based on vocal range or quality that may result in a chorus or choruses of one or predominantly one gender.

Student Clubs

Per Chancellor’s Regulation A-601, membership in student clubs or organizations must be open to all students in the school regardless of gender. While some clubs might focus on building equity for one gender, all clubs must permit and should encourage participation from students of all genders. For example, “feminist” student clubs should not be limited to only girls. Additionally, a “Gender and Sexuality Alliance” that exists to promote equity and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students must be open to students of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Such inclusion promotes a respectful school climate and fosters allyship among students.

Health Class

The DOE prohibits gender segregation for health classes, including for classes or portions of these classes that deal primarily with human sexuality.

Puberty education and sexuality education lessons must be designed to be inclusive and affirming of all genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations, and use gender-inclusive language throughout (e.g., “a penis” vs. “a boy’s penis,” or “one example of sexual anatomy” vs. “female sexual anatomy”).

Schools should refer to the Office of School Wellness Programs for curriculum and training to meet these standards.

Physical Education

Schools may not separate students by gender for physical education classes or activities except for contact sports, including wrestling, boxing, rugby, ice hockey, football, basketball, and other sports the purpose or major activity of which involves bodily contact. However, grouping students in physical education classes and activities by ability as assessed by objective standards of individual performance developed and applied without regard to gender is permissible, even if it results in classes or activities of predominantly one gender.

Generally, a student must be permitted to participate in physical education, intramural sports, and competitive athletic activities and contact sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity asserted at school.

If schools offer partner activities, such as dancing, they may not create gender-specific roles (e.g., schools should use “lead” and “follow” vs. “male” and “female” to identify roles).

Vocational Classes

The DOE prohibits single-gender vocational classes. Vocational classes have the primary purpose of preparing students to pursue a technical, skilled, or semi-skilled occupation or trade. So, for example, schools may not offer a girls’-only nursing class.

Non-Vocational Classes and Extracurricular Activities

Generally, non-vocational classes and extracurricular activities must be coeducational.

In very limited circumstances, it may be appropriate to offer single-gender non-vocational classes, or extracurricular activities that support the curriculum (e.g., advisory groups). There must be a clear, evidence-based pedagogical purpose for offering the class or activity as single-gender, and the purpose must not be premised on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of any gender. Students must be allowed to participate in those classes or activities, described below, consistent with their gender identity asserted at school. Schools must consult their Senior Field Counsel prior to offering any such class or activity.

In those limited circumstances where single-gender non-vocational classes or extracurricular activities are permitted:

  1. The school must also offer a coeducational class or activity of substantial equivalence, and allow students to choose whether to enroll in the coeducational and/or the single-gender option.
  2. The school must not reference gender in the title of the class or activity to describe the student composition (e.g., schools should refer to “advisory” vs. “boys’” or “girls’ advisory”). However, gender may be noted to describe the course content (e.g., “Women’s Literature”).
  3. The school must conduct a periodic evaluation of the single-gender class or extracurricular activity at least every two years to assess the original justification for the class or activity and to determine whether these objectives are being achieved.

The DOE permits the creation of non-vocational, single-gender schools. Generally, these schools are permitted only if students of the excluded gender have the opportunity to attend a substantially equal single-gender or coeducational school. Students must be admitted based on their gender identity asserted at school.

School-Based Practices

Generally, school-based practices should not be based on gender—including, for example, when dividing students into lines or for lunch, recess, or discussion groups. Schools should not use colors, images, or symbols traditionally associated with one gender (e.g., pink vs. blue, construction hats vs. tiaras) to divide or otherwise categorize students by gender. Schools should also avoid gender-based events such as father-daughter dances and designating kings or queens for dances or proms.

Facilities

The DOE permits single-gender restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms in schools. Students must be provided access to facilities consistent with their gender identity asserted at school. Schools must provide reasonable alternative arrangements for any student who expresses a need or desire for increased privacy, but must never be forced upon students, nor presented as the only option. Furthermore, any arrangements must be provided in a non-stigmatizing manner that protects student privacy and is not marginalizing or disruptive for the student.

School staff should not assume that any student belongs in a particular single-gender restroom. Accordingly, restroom passes should not designate gender.

Notification of Staff and Students

Principals or their designees are responsible for ensuring that school staff, students, and families are familiar with these guidelines. Schools may also link to them from their website or include them in their student or family handbook.

Questions

Questions about these guidelines should be directed to your school’s Senior Field Counsel.

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