Mental Health

Study: Trans students more likely to be sexually assaulted in schools with restrictive restroom policies

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Transgender and non-binary students are at higher risk of sexual assault in schools that do not allow them to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers, led by Gabriel Murchison of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed 3,673 trans and nonbinary students at middle and high schools across the nation, and found that 26 percent reported they had been sexually assaulted or harassed in the past 12 months. Among students whose schools had restrictive bathroom and locker room policies, the number was 35 percent, according to the study.

{mosads}Transgender girls forced to use boys’ locker rooms had more than twice the risk of sexual assault, according to the researchers.

“We can’t tell from this study whether restrictive restroom and locker room policies cause sexual assault,” Murchison told NBC News. “However, at the least, they seem to be a marker for an environment where trans and nonbinary youth are at risk.”

While some schools allow trans or non-binary students to use unisex staff restrooms, this may not sufficiently address the risks to the students, as using them may “out” the students and expose them to further harassment, according to the study.

To reduce the risk, Murchison suggested better supervision of locker rooms, as well as improved privacy options such as curtained changing areas and robust, responsive anti-harassment policies in schools, also recommending schools consider implementing all-gender restrooms.

The Trump administration in 2017 rolled back Obama-era protections for transgender students related to bathrooms and other facilities. 

Last February, the administration confirmed it will not investigate complaints from students claiming they were prevented from using their corresponding bathroom, saying such complaints were not covered under Title IX anti-discrimination laws.

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