ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Transgender students are often harassed in public schools across the state and education officials have failed to carry out a legislative mandate to protect them, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
In a report Wednesday, the NYCLU said discrimination and harassment are pervasive, though a five-year-old state law to protect all students from bullying also explicitly prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived gender.
In the 2012-13 school year, schools statewide reported 24,478 incidents of harassment under the law, 19 percent of them related to gender stereotypes, according to the report.
But the study's lead author said the real number may be even higher.
"Tragically, the majority of transgender students will never report harassment simply because they believe nothing would be done by school staff, and sadly they are not wrong," Lauren Frederico said on a conference call Wednesday.
The report found that many schools don't respect the privacy of transgender students.
"Many students are not openly transgender. This is their personal choice and it's also their right under the law. But schools out kids as transgender by not letting them use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity," Frederico said. "Many students avoid using the restroom during the entire school day, limiting their water intake, holding it for hours and putting their physical health at risk. One student skipped gym class altogether to avoid being seen changing separately from his peers and as a result started failing classes."
The NYCLU said that absent state guidance, schools have ad hoc policies that are mostly "insufficient, illegal and deeply damaging to transgender and gender nonconforming youth.''
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