- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Department of Education has suggested that all transgender students in the state should be able to use whatever names, bathrooms and pronouns they want.

The department on Thursday released 15 pages of guidelines on issues that are likely to be controversial, including allowing transgender females wo play girls sports and transgender men to wear tuxedos to prom, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (http://is.gd/HEg9cA ).

“A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day should be respected and treated like any other girl,” the document reads. “So too with a student who says he is a boy.”

The decision comes after Dallas School District Superintendent Michelle Johnstone asked Gov. Kate Brown for help in February. The district, located west of Salem, has been embroiled in controversy since last fall when Dallas High School’s principal agreed to let a transgender male use the boys’ locker room.

Parents and students in Dallas protested, but the district’s lawyer said they would likely lose the lawsuit that would come if they caved to community pressure.

“There appears to be conflict regarding the intent of the Oregon Equality Act,” Johnstone wrote to Brown, referring to a state law that bars discrimination on the basis of sex.

The Oregon Department of Education recommendations do not lay out punishments for districts that ignore the guidelines, but federal regulators have warned schools in other states that they could lose funding if they discriminate against transgender students.

Oregon now joins a handful of states that have issued similar recommendations amid the increasingly heated conversation over transgender identity including Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.

Lori Porter, a spokeswoman for Beaverton-based Parents Rights in Education, said her group disagrees with the education department’s reading of state and federal laws.

“Federal law is clear,” the group said in a statement, “that there are no legal grounds to require school districts to open up their bathrooms and changing rooms to members of the opposite biological sex.”

LGBT advocacy groups, however, said they were grateful for the state’s thoughtful recommendations.

“There are transgender students throughout the state of Oregon,” said Andrea Zekis, a policy director for LGBTQ advocacy group Basic Rights Oregon. “Providing a place of privacy and safety ensures students can grow up to be an adult who can participate in all aspects of life. They should have same opportunities as everybody.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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