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Mass. Education Department issues rules on transgender pupils

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued directives Friday ­for handling transgender students, including allowing them to use the bathrooms or play on the sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The guidance was issued to help schools follow the state’s 2011 antidiscrimination law protecting transgender people.

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‘‘These students, because of widespread misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives, are at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying,’’ the document read.

Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition welcomed the guidance, saying it would be ‘‘immense­ly helpful to those parents who have been struggling with making sure that the school environment is safe and welcoming of their child.’’

But the Massachusetts Family Institute said allowing transgender boys to use girls’ bathrooms, and vice versa, endangers other students and violates their privacy.

The Education Department said it consulted policies in several states, advocacy groups, parents, and students.

In all cases, ‘‘the student may access the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that corresponds to the student’s gender identity,’’ it said.

The guidance said some students may feel uncomfortable sharing those facilities, but this ‘‘discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.’’ Education Department spokesman JC Considine said school restrooms are not public accommodations.

‘‘We’re talking about the use of school facilities by students who have no choice but to be in a school building,’’ Considine said.

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