Dear Secretary DeVos:

The presidents of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts urge the United States Department of Education (ED) to recommit to its mission and protect the rights of transgender students in Massachusetts and across the country. In 1980, ED officially dedicated the Department’s resources to, among other priorities, “prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.” However, we are collectively concerned by recent action of the Department and the impact to important individuals in our community, threatening equal access to education for all students.

In 2011, we are proud that the Massachusetts General Court prohibited discrimination due to Gender Identity in matters of housing, employment, public education, and credit. In 2016, this law was expanded in Massachusetts to also bar discrimination in matters of public accommodation. This past Tuesday, we were delighted that voters in Massachusetts reaffirmed this protection to our transgender community by overwhelmingly rejecting the law’s repeal.

However, the effort in Massachusetts is greatly juxtaposed with recent efforts by the Federal Government to limit rights of transgender individuals in schools and on higher education campuses. Last year, the Justice and Education Departments issued a letter revoking a previous Title IX guidance allowing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in alignment with their gender identity. Also, a recent New York Times report suggests that the Department of Health and Human Services is considering a change to define sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” and that “the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.” These discussions are concerning and not based on medical community consensus.

You have publicly stated your “moral obligation” to protect LGBTQ students. You have also mentioned that every student in America should have “the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” We hope that you follow the lead of Massachusetts and take this opportunity to recommit to all students in the country by protecting the rights of transgender people. Now is not the time to turn our backs on our students – all who deserve our respect, our commitment to their safety, and our unbridled support.

Sincerely, 

Valerie R. Roberson, President
Roxbury Community College
Chair, Community College Council of Presidents

Laura L. Douglas, President
Bristol Community College

John L. Cox, President
Cape Cod Community College

Christina Royal, President
Holyoke Community College

Gena Glickman, President
Massasoit Community College

James Vander Hooven, President
Mount Wachusett Community College

Patricia A. Gentile, President
North Shore Community College

Ellen L. Kennedy, President
Berkshire Community College 

Pam Eddinger, President
Bunker Hill Community College

Yves Salomon-Fernandez, President
Greenfield Community College

David Podell, President
Massachusetts Bay Community College

James C. Mabry, President
Middlesex Community College

Lane A. Glenn, President
Northern Essex Community College

Luis Pedraja, President
Quinsigamond Community College

John B. Cook, President
Springfield Technical Community College