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Open Letter to Secretary DeVos to Protect Transgender Students

Massachusetts Community Colleges Logo

November 9, 2018

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.


Valerie R. Roberson
President, Roxbury Community College
Chair, Community College Council of Presidents
Ellen L. Kennedy 
President, Berkshire Community College
Laura L. Douglas
President, Bristol Community College
Pam Eddinger
President, Bunker Hill Community College
John L. Cox
President, Cape Cod Community College
Yves Salomon-Fernandez
President, Greenfield Community College
Christina Royal
President, Holyoke Community College
David Podell
President, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Gena Glickman
President, Massasoit Community College
James C. Mabry
President, Middlesex Community College
James Vander Hooven
President, Mount Wachusett Community College
Lane A. Glenn
President, Northern Essex Community College
Patricia A. Gentile
President, North Shore Community College
Luis Pedraja
President, Quinsigamond Community College
John B. Cook
President, Springfield Technical Community College