Philadelphia is poised to next year require youth organizations in the city — ranging from charter schools to rec centers to sports clubs — to accommodate transgender and gender-nonconforming kids, including allowing them to wear clothing and use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
City Council on Thursday unanimously passed the bill that would make the School District of Philadelphia’s relatively progressive guidelines a uniform, citywide nondiscrimination policy. Mayor Jim Kenney intends to sign the bill pending a final review by the Law Department, a spokesperson said. The mandate would take effect in June, at the earliest.
In addition to requiring organizations to treat transgender and nonbinary youth according to their gender identity, it would also require antidiscrimination training for staffers, and it mandates that personnel shouldn’t disclose a child’s transgender or nonbinary status to parents or other staff without authorization by the child.
City lawyers and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, which would enforce the rule, are still working out if or how it might apply to religious institutions and the city’s dozens of parochial schools. Just before a Council committee vote took place last month, language was added to the bill stating the commission should provide a religious exemption “as otherwise required by law.”
Officials with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the largest parochial school operator in the city, haven’t commented on the legislation. Some leaders in the charter-school community have questioned whether the city has the authority to dictate school policy in this way, while others point out plenty of charter schools already have progressive guidelines similar to the School District’s.
The bill was passed as part of a broader package of “inclusion” legislation championed by at-large Councilwoman Helen Gym. Other bills expected to be signed by the mayor would require a gender-neutral bathroom on every floor of City Hall and would expand the city’s definition of “gender identity.”
Gym’s push came after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back Obama-era protections for transgender and nonbinary students who attend public schools. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is gearing up to next month hear what could be a landmark LGBTQ discrimination case.
Federal courts have ruled that though the Obama-era directive isn’t in place, public schools can implement policies allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.