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Transgender Teens Subjected to Restrictive School Restroom Policies Face Higher Risk of Sexual Assault

5/6/2019

Transgender and gender non-binary teens experience high rates of sexual assault during middle school and high school, and they are at a greater risk of sexual assault at schools that deny them access to gender identity-congruent restrooms or locker rooms, according to a Pediatrics study. The study, “School Restroom/Locker Rooms Restrictions and Sexual Assault Risk Among Transgender Youth,” published in the June 2019 issue of Pediatrics (published online May 6) analyzed data submitted by 3,673 participants from the LGBTQ Teen Study, an anonymous web-based survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer adolescents. The participants were in grades 7 through 12 and reported a transgender and/or non-binary identity, which is someone whose gender identity falls outside the traditional male and female. Most (90 percent) of the participants were assigned female at birth. More than 25 percent had been sexually assaulted over the prior 12 months, substantially higher than national rates of 15 percent among cisgender high school girls and 4 percent among cisgender boys. Young people who were subject to restroom/locker room restrictions had an overall prevalence of 36 percent. The authors noted that the restrictions were associated with feeling less safe both in restrooms and locker rooms themselves and elsewhere at school. The authors suggest that, besides avoiding restrictive policies, schools should strongly consider designating at least one “all-gender restroom,” along with additional adult supervision in locations where harassment is most likely to occur. The authors also recommend training staff to intervene in anti-LGBTQ bullying and offering privacy options, such as curtains in the locker rooms.

Editor’s Note: A solicited commentary, “Sexual Assault Risk and School Facility Restrictions in Gender Minority Youth,” will be published in the same issue of Pediatrics.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds